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Improving Eyesight With Pencil Pushups

Little boy struggling to read

How Pencil Pushups Can Help Your Child's Eyes

Does your child's vision blur when they try to focus on objects, words, or images close to their eyes? A simple pencil exercise may help improve their near vision.

Why It Can Be Hard to See Close Up

Good near vision relies on the eye's ability to rotate inward slightly. If one or both of your child's eyes drift outward or the eyes don't work as a team, your child may notice blurred or double vision when performing close tasks. Called convergence insufficiency (CI), the condition affects between 4 and 17 percent of adults and children, according to the National Eye Institute.

If your child has CI, they may have trouble reading the small print in a book or using an app on their smart device. The words on the page may seem to move when they try to read, or they may notice that reading for even a short period of time makes them feel tired.

CI may cause eyestrain, dizziness, motion sickness, headaches, and can make it much harder to concentrate or keep their place while they read.

Although one eye or both eyes may noticeably drift outward when your child works with near items, that's not always the case. In fact, even very slight deviations can close problems.

It's not always possible to determine why your child has CI, but the condition can be related to strabismus (crossed eyes), head injuries, infections, medication side effects, or diseases or conditions that affect muscles or nerves.

Pencil Pushups May Improve CI Symptoms

Pencil pushups train the eyes to move inward together when your child looks at close objects. The vision exercises can be performed anywhere and only require a pencil or pen.

Have your child perform pushups by holding the pencil at arm's length away from their face. They should slowly move their arm closer to themselves. As the pencil gets closer to their eyes, they might see two pencils or notice that the pencil looks blurry. When this happens, the pencil should be moved away from their eyes and start the exercise again. If your child performs this exercise every day, they may soon notice an improvement in their ability to focus on near objects.

When Pencil Pushups Aren't Enough

As helpful as pencil pushups can be, they can't always improve CI. Fortunately, vision therapy offers an effective way to boost your child's focusing ability. During the therapy, you'll perform a series of exercises, activities, and games all designed to improve convergence.

Their therapy sessions may involve playing computer games that encourage them to use both of their eyes together or focusing intently on small, colorful balls suspended on a string. Wearing glasses with prism lenses can also be helpful in some cases. The lenses bend the light rays entering the eyes, making it easier for their brain to create one clear image when they view close objects and images.

In a research study published in Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics, children who participated in 12 weeks of vision therapy showed significant improvement in their CI symptoms. Although the study only examined the effects of vision therapy for children, it can be just as effective for adults.

Does your child struggle to read or have difficulty seeing near objects clearly? Vision therapy can help them improve their vision.

Sources:

American Academy of Optometry: The Effectiveness of Pencil Pushups Treatment for Convergence Insufficiency, 1999

National Eye Institute: Convergence Insufficiency, 10/23/19

PubMed: Ophthalmic Physiology: Effectiveness of Vision Therapy for Convergence Dysfunction and Long-Term Stability After Vision Therapy, 3/11

College of Optometrists in Vision Development: Convergence Insufficiency