How Visual Perception And Autism Spectrum Disorder Are Related

Along with eye problems, such as crossed eyes and other eye movement disorders, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have visual problems that are related to their autism. Behavioral symptoms, sensory integration problems, developmental delays, and learning disabilities often associated with autism may be related to your child's visual system. If your child with autism experiences any of these problems, there is treatment available to help him or her overcome these challenges.

Autism-Related Visual Struggles

Children on the autism spectrum often struggle to process the information that they take in visually. Problems with visual processing can lead to motor problems or affect a child's speech and cognitive abilities.

Many children with autism also have difficulty coordinating peripheral (side) and central vision. Your child may remain fixated on a single object and ignore other objects in his or her line of vision. When following an object with his or her eyes, your child may not look directly at the object, but will look off to one side of the object instead. Or, your child may scan the object without following the movement. Your child also may be fascinated by spinning objects and stare at them.

Sensory Issues that Affect Vision

Your child with autism may have visual sensory issues as well. If your child is visually defensive, he or she may avoid looking at certain objects or at any one object for too long. Some children with autism have hypersensitive vision, which means they constantly shift their vision and scan the visual stimuli around them.

Importance of Visual Examination

If you are concerned that your child may be having problems with visual perception, a developmental or behavioral optometrist can perform tests and then develop a treatment plan to help your child improve on how to use his or her vision more effectively. The earlier problems are detected, the sooner visual intervention can begin. Early intervention can lead to faster improvement and a more successful outcome over time.

Signs to look for that your child with autism may have vision or visual processing problems:

  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Touches objects when on the move
  • Looks at objects quickly or from the side
  • Fascinated by lights
  • Squints eyes
  • Bumps into things
  • Stares into space or at certain objects
  • Illegible handwriting
  • No depth perception
  • Pokes at his or her eyes

An eye doctor at a clinic like Country Hills Eye Center will also need to determine if your child has vision problems such as near or farsightedness or astigmatism. Your child will need corrective lenses for these problems.

Vision Therapy as Treatment

An eye specialist who provides eye therapy can help your child learn to use vision more effectively to process the world around him or her. A visual therapist uses tools and activities to help children improve their visual processing. Children with autism who are having difficulty learning to read often see improvement after they begin a vision therapy program as well.

In the beginning, your child may work one-on-one with a visual therapist and then move on to a home program to further develop his or her visual skills. Eye therapy usually includes performing eye exercises, developing focusing skills, and the use of eye prisms.