Conquering Convergence Insufficiency - A Guide to Improving Reading Skills

Eye convergence for reading
Identifying and Conquering Eye Convergence Insufficiency: A Guide to Improving Reading Skills

Reading is fundamental for lifelong learning and success. For children struggling with poor eye convergence, simple reading can be very challenging. Let's explore what eye convergence insufficiency is, how it affects reading, and learn actionable strategies to help children overcome this hurdle. 

What is Eye Convergence?

Convergence insufficiency is a vision disorder that affects the ability of both eyes to move inward and focus on a near object. We do this when we look at a book or screen. When our eyes converge properly  on an object or text, it makes the image more clear. People with convergence insufficiency will have one eye that turns outward.

Image of eyes converging

Image of eyes not converging on text

According to the Michigan Eye Institute, the causes of convergence deficiency are unclear. Some people are born with this condition. Injury and diseases are also a possibility. Convergence Insufficiency can also begin in adulthood. Some eye doctors theorize that the eyes can become dependent on eyeglasses or contact lenses. This can cause our eyes to lose some ability to work together.

Symptoms of poor convergence include eye strain, double vision, and difficulty focusing while reading. An estimated 5-10% of school-aged children experience convergence insufficiency, making it a significant concern for parents and educators alike.

How to Check if a Child has Convergence Insufficiency

Supplies Needed: Pencil with an eraser 

Setup: The person being tested for Convergence Insufficiency  sits in a chair, facing the  person doing the testing. The person doing the testing starts out with the pencil about 12-14 inches in front of the person being tested with the eraser at the  eye-level of the person being tested.. 

The person doing the testing tells the person being tested  to try to make their eyes cross as the pencil eraser is  slowly moved  toward the tip of their nose. The person doing the testing will let the person being tested know that the pencil is going to get very close to their face, but they need to try to keep both eyes on the eraser as the pencil is moved back and forth several times. 

The person doing the testing will watch the  eyes of the person being tested as the pencil is slowly moved toward the nose of the person being tested., The pencil is brought about 3 inches in front of the tip of the nose of the person being tested and then slowly pulled back to the starting position.  The person doing the testing moves the pencil back and forth at least 4 times watching the  eyes of the person being tested closely to see if they are able to stay continuously focused on the eraser or if one or both eyes have difficulty staying on and tracking it. 

Things commonly seen while testing convergence:

  • The person being tested is unable to follow the eraser with one or both eyes as it moves toward their nose.
  • One or both of the  eyes of the person being tested drift off of and onto the pencil eraser  (it is difficult for the person being tested to keep their eyes on the target – they may not even know that their eye/eyes are drifting).

If the person being tested can keep both eyes on the eraser to 3”- 4” from the nose, they have good convergence.

The Intersection of Convergence Insufficiency and Dyslexia

Dyslexia affects a person’s ability to process information when reading. Some people can suffer from convergence insufficiency and Dyslexia at the same time. When this occurs, the challenges compound. This will impact their reading fluency, decoding, and spelling.

In such cases, a comprehensive approach that addresses both conditions is crucial. Intervention for Dyslexia may involve specialized reading programs and vision therapy.

It's important to note that Dyslexia does not reflect intelligence. In fact, many individuals with Dyslexia are highly intelligent and creative. Early recognition and intervention is critical to mitigate the effects of Convergence Insufficiency on reading and learning.

It's worth mentioning that Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder. This means that Dyslexia can manifest itself differently in each individual. Some people may have more trouble understanding sounds. Others may struggle to follow things with their eyes. There isn't a 'one size fits all' solution for everyone. A personalized approach to intervention is essential.

How Poor Eye Convergence Affects Reading

For a child with convergence insufficiency, reading can be an arduous task. Here are some of the ways this condition impacts their reading experience:

1. Eye Strain and Fatigue: The constant effort to bring the eyes into alignment can cause strain. This can lead to fatigue, making it difficult for a person to sustain their focus on the text.

2. Double Vision/Blurred Vision: When the eyes struggle to converge it causes vision issues.  A person may see double vision, blurry vision, or overlapping words. They may also feel like words move, jump, swim, or appear to float on the page. This makes it incredibly challenging to decode and comprehend the text.

3. Loss of Place: Difficulty in maintaining focus can cause a person to lose their place on the page. Or, they may mistakenly re-read the same line of text. This leads to frustration and a lack of fluency in their reading.

4. Reduced Comprehension: Reading is not merely about decoding words. Reading is also about understanding and making meaning from the text. Convergence insufficiency creates more work when reading. The extra concentration required to read makes processing the words more difficult. This reduces the ability to comprehend and remember what is read.

Strategies for Struggling Readers with Convergence Insufficiency

There are effective strategies to help with poor eye convergence. Certain activities can help to strengthen the eyes and their ability to focus and work together. It can also be helpful to learn to love reading. Here are some great ways to get there:

1. Vision Therapy: Vision therapy is by far the most effective treatment for convergence insufficiency. Vision therapy is a treatment that uses eye exercises to strengthen the muscles and to train the eyes to work together rather than independently. 

One common eye exercise to treat convergence insufficiency is Pencil Pushups. Hold a pencil vertically at arm’s length. Begin by bringing it toward the tip of your nose until your eyes can no longer focus. Return to the original starting position and do it again. Try to get it closer to your nose than last time before losing focus. The goal is to “train” your eyes to work together. The goal is that your eyes can stay continuously focused on the eraser of the pencil by tracking it’s movement until it is very close to your face, making your eyes “cross”.

If it is too difficult to track the moving pencil while keeping both eyes on the pencil eraser, or if the person you are testing is seeing two erasers (double-vision), try one of the following breakdowns until it becomes easy, then continue the exercise as described above.
  • Slow the pencil way down or keep it still at 3-4 inches in front of the person, and see if they can cross their eyes without the pencil moving (or moving slowly). 
  • Have the person being tested cover one eye and then the other, exercising the eyes individually. 
    • When the eye muscles become stronger, spend time each day exercising the eyes individually and together as directed above. 

Pencil Pushups are a good exercise to train the  eyes to converge. 

2. Hand-Eye Coordination Activities: Engaging in activities that enhance hand-eye coordination can benefit convergence skills. Drawing, coloring, puzzles, building blocks, or stringing beads are excellent ways to improve fine motor skills while strengthening focus and tracking. Enjoyable activities can be a great way to practice while not feeling like hard work.

3. Practice Visual Scanning Exercises: Visual scanning exercises involve systematically exploring a visual field. You can use activities like finding specific items in a picture or playing 'I Spy' games. Word searches are also an excellent tool! These exercises promote efficient visual processing which is vital for smooth tracking when reading lines of text.

4. Professional Resources: There are more resources available to help parents. Learning Technics uses Physio-Neuro Therapy to address convergence insufficiencies and other learning difficulties by exercising target areas of the brain, promoting growth of new neurological tissue and strengthening the pathways of communication in the brain. This multisensory approach can engage the senses simultaneously, aiding convergence insufficiency and many other learning struggles.


Help with convergence insufficiency requires a caring and complete approach. Convergence insufficiency shouldn't stop anyone from becoming a confident and efficient reader. Every person is different. It's important to keep trying different methods until you find what works best. With the right help,  becoming a strong reader is possible - paving the way for a lifetime of learning and success. 

Learning Technics Offers Something Different That WORKS!

It can be extremely difficult to watch your child struggle or avoid school, whether they have been diagnosed with a learning disorder or not. At Learning Technics, we understand your experiences and can help you find solutions for your child through Physio-Neuro Therapy (PNT). PNT is a multisensory program designed to permanently correct learning struggles and help students lead successful academic and professional lives.

Contact us today for more information about Learning Technics, or schedule a free consultation with a learning Specialist today!