Helping Children With Autism Focus on the World Around Them
April 12, 2019

For parents of children with Autism spectrum disorder, it is a never-ending quest to sort through all the different therapies including vision therapy that are available to help improve the quality of life for those on the autism spectrum disorder or those with vision problems. For Autism Awareness Month, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is bringing awareness to the availability of optometric vision therapy and how it can positively impact those on the spectrum.

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“I was always told my son, Cass (who was diagnosed with high functioning Autism in January 2014 when he was 9 years old) could see 20/20, so I didn’t even think that his vision could be contributing to his reading problems,” Penelope Massagee of Charleston, SC, shares; “You can imagine my surprise when I found out he was seeing double and that words looked like they were moving on the page. He must have thought it was normal, because he never complained!”

It is a common misconception that 20/20 means one has perfect vision. The term 20/20 was actually developed in the 1800’s and only means one can see a certain size of letter from 20 feet. There are a variety of other visual skills required for academic success and functioning in life including eye coordination and eye tracking problems.

children with autism spectrum disorder - vision therapy

“Many inadvertently overlook eye coordination and eye tracking problems which can cause the types of problems Cass was having when he tried to read. Vision problems can often accompany autism spectrum disorders and other developmental delays,” states Dr. Ida Chung, OD, FCOVD, President of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

Today, Cass is halfway through a program of optometric vision therapy. The double vision is gone and words no longer move on the page. In addition, his mother shares, “I tell everyone about Vision Therapy. Even if their child doesn’t have autism, if their child is struggling with school, I tell them that the most important thing is to get their child’s vision tested. Even when someone tells me their child has ADD and trouble focusing, I encourage them to get an eye examination by a developmental optometrist. If my sister had not told me about vision therapy, Cass would still be struggling. So I want to help other parents.”

Check out more success stories for children with autism spectrum disorder HERE.

children with autism spectrum disorder - vision therapy

Autism expert, Ricki G. Robinson, MD, MPH, is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Keck School of Medicine and the Co-Director of the Descanso Medical Center for Development and Learning in La Canada, California is a practice devoted to children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders. In her book, Autism Solutions: How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for Your Child, Dr. Robinson states,

“Precise coordinated eye movements are needed for focusing, eye tracking, and binocular vision (eyes working together). All are required for maintaining eye contact and spatial awareness, even hand-eye coordination. All are potential concerns for children with ASD. However, if these skills are delayed, they can be learned.”

children with autism spectrum disorder - vision problems

For many children with autism spectrum disorder, a program of optometric vision therapy can help them learn the necessary visual skills for reading and functioning in life. Just as neuro-typical children can struggle with reading because of underlying eye coordination, eye movement, and eye-tracking disorders, so do children on the autism spectrum. Some of the more common signs that vision problems are present include:
o    Poor eye contact
o    Staring at spinning objects or light
o    Fleeting peripheral glances
o    Side viewing
o    Difficulty maintaining visual attention
o    Avoidance of near tasks such as reading
o    Skips lines or loses place when reading
o    Difficulty tracking moving objects

“We would like to encourage you to learn more about the types of vision problems that can add to a child’s challenges with ASD,” states Chung, “When individuals with ASD have vision problems they will often show certain behaviors that can easily be assumed to be part of being on the spectrum. However, these vision problems are often very treatable. This is why it is so important to have these children examined by a developmental optometrist.”  Read the white paper on Vision and Autism HERE.

Locate a Developmental Optometrist in your area.

children with autism spectrum disorder - vision problems

During the month of April people will be posting information about vision and autism. Eye Optics invites and encourages everyone to join our efforts and share information by using the hashtags #autism, #asd, and #visiontherapy. To learn more about vision therapy and autism at the COVD website, go HERE.

Eye Optics Optometry Center is a full-service optometric office located in Elk Grove, CA. Their dedicated team includes four doctors of optometry, qualified opticians, and many friendly staff members. They provide professional eye care to ensure your best possible vision, comfort, and eye health.

Their complete optometry services include Vision Therapy, Optomap Retinal Exams, Orthokeratology (Corneal Reshaping), Dry Eye Clinics, Infant Exams, and we do Pre & Post-Op Services for LASIK. They also carry a large selection of competitively priced designer frames and contact lenses.

Their mission at Eye Optics Optometry Center is to correct and protect your vision while providing excellent service that goes beyond your expectations.

Hands holding puzzle ribbon for autism awareness

Here are a few extra resources:

If you’re looking for more Special Needs Resources, click HERE to view what’s on our website.

Interested in reading more of Special Needs Blog Posts? Click HERE.

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