Autism and Vision
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurobiological disorder. People with autism have difficulty processing and responding to information from their senses. They also have difficulties with communication and social interaction.
Symptoms of autism can include lack of reciprocal social interaction, delays in development, and inappropriate response to sensory information.
Visual Problems and Autism
Symptoms of autism can include lack of eye contact, staring at spinning objects or light, fleeting peripheral glances, and side viewing. Autistic people usually use visual information inefficiently. They suffer from issues with coordinating their central and visual modality. For instance, when asked to follow an object with their eyes, they usually do not look directly at the object. Instead, they will scan or look off to the side of the object.
Poor Integration of Central and Peripheral Vision
Autistic individuals can also ignore peripheral vision and remain fixated on a central point of focus for excessive periods of time. Poor integration of central and peripheral vision can lead to difficulties in processing and integrating visual information in autistic individuals. Motor, cognitive, speech, and sensory activity can be affected once a visual process is interrupted.
Hypersensitive Touch and Vision
People suffering from autism are tactually or visually defensive. The former are easily over-stimulated by input through touch and avoid contact with specific textures while the later avoid contact with specific visual input and might have hypersensitive vision.
Vision Exams for Autistic Patients
Evaluating the vision of people with autism varies depending on the individual’s levels of emotional and physical development. Testing is often done while the patient is asked to perform specific activities while wearing special lenses. For example, observations of the patient’s postural adaptations and compensations will be made as he or she catches and throws a ball, walks, sits, stands, etc. Such tests help to determine how the autistic person is seeing and how he or she can be helped.
Treatment of Visual Problems Associated with Autism
Depending on the results of testing, lenses are prescribed to compensate for near-sightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Vision Therapy activities can be used to stimulate general visual arousal, eye movements, and the central visual system. The treatment helps autistic patients organize visual space and gain peripheral stability so that they can better attend to and appreciate the central vision and gain more efficient eye coordination and visual information processing.