Vision Problems and Autism (ASD)

While autism and vision problems are separate medical issues (neither one directly causes the other), there is some noticeable overlap. Patients with autism frequently also suffer from vision issues which may exacerbate problems caused by their autism. For example, a vision issue which makes it hard to properly focus the eyes and maintain eye contact can make it even harder for someone with a developmental problem making communication difficult.  

Additionally, some vision issues can cause symptoms which may be mistaken for autism symptoms and thus lead to misdiagnosis.

 

Vision Problems and Autism (ASD) in Manhattan

Amplify EyeCare Manhattan

Vision Problems Often Experienced by People with Autism

There are a number of vision-related symptoms often experienced by people with autism.  These symptoms can be caused by the autism itself, but often are caused by vision issues. 

These symptoms include:

  • Poor eye contact
  • Peripheral vision issues
  • Eye tracking difficulty
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye alignment issues

 

Autistic Behavior Due to Vision Issues

There are also some recognized autistic behaviors which can be caused, at least in part, by vision issues. These include:

  • Head tilting
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Visual stimming (flapping fingers in front of the eyes)
  • Absence of reciprocal play
  • Looking past, or through objects.

Why are Autism and Vision Issues Often Found Together?

Autism is a developmental disorder typically described as a condition which makes it difficult for someone to properly interact with the world around them. Due to the fact that it is a challenge for them to interact with things, especially in social settings, they may engage in habits that inhibit their visual development, or they may simply not develop some of the crucial vision skills they need, and thus suffer from vision problems.

 

On the other hand, since vision is a key tool in a child’s development, vision issues can lead to slower development, which manifests as more severe autism. Thus correcting any vision issues can help the child make up for their slower prior development, and have an easier time interacting with the world around them.

Why are Autism and Vision Issues Often Found Together?
How are Autistic Patients Tested for Vision Issues?

How are Autistic Patients Tested for Vision Issues?

Depending on the level of the patient’s emotional and physical development, the vision testing process can vary. Often, the tests are done while the patient wears special lenses as they perform a series of activities. These tests help our doctor understand just how the autistic patient is seeing, and what can be done to improve their vision skills. Following the tests, our doctor will formulate a personalized treatment plan based on the patient’s needs and level of development.

How are Autistic Patients Tested for Vision Issues?

What is the Goal of Treatment?

Vision therapy is designed to help the patient improve their vision skills to correct the problems they are experiencing, and thus improve their quality of life. For autistic patients, this treatment can help them better process visual information, improve their eye coordination, better organize their visual space, and better manage both their central and peripheral vision.

Treatment includes specialized exercises, as well as vision aids such as specialized lenses. Depending on the nature of the patient’s vision issues, corrective lenses may also be prescribed.

Dr. Wernick cartoon

Summary

While vision issues and autism are separate conditions, they are often comorbid, and treating these vision problems can help improve the quality of life for autism patients, though their vision therapy should also be in conjunction with other forms of treatment or therapy. Vision therapy, with its highly individualized treatment plans, is a great choice both for correcting vision issues and for working with autism patients who have additional struggles. If your child has autism, and you suspect they may also be suffering from a vision issue, contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation.

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