Our vision therapy clinic has the pleasure of working with children of varying ages that have autism spectrum disorder. Multiple therapies are often offered to these families, so let’s review vision therapy a little more specifically.
Observing a child’s behavior will often tell you how they are functioning, so behaviors (constructive and destructive) are very important. Many patients with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with:
- eye/hand coordination
- fine motor skills
- large motor skills
- eye contact
- sensitivity to light
- impulse control
- understanding one’s physical place within an area
- depth perception (causing clumsiness)
Many of these symptoms can be caused by undiagnosed vision issues such as eye teaming disorders, strabismus, or other visual/perception disorders. Some children with autism use visual information inefficiently. They have problems coordinating their central vision with their side vision. When asked to follow an object with their eyes, they usually do not look at it directly. They scan or look off to the side at the object. These individuals may have difficulty maintaining visual attention. They do not trust the visual input that is coming in and have difficulty making sense of the visual information.
Visually defensive children avoid contact with specific visual input and may have hypersensitive vision. They have difficulty with visually “holding still” and frequently rely on a constant scanning of visual information in an attempt to gain meaning. Once central focus is gained; they ignore side vision and remain fixated on a task for excessive periods. Since the visual system relates to motor, cognitive, speech, and perceptual abilities, these areas may also be affected when the visual processing is interrupted.
Eye teaming and the processing of visual information are skills that are not tested at your routine comprehensive eye exam or at your pediatrician exam. Developmental optometrists are equipped to measure, observe behaviors and develop an individualized plan that understands your child’s needs. Please seek an evaluation if your child struggles with any of these issues.