Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a range of neurobiological disorders that make it difficult for patients to process and respond to information from the senses. There are different types of ASD and autistic children often have different symptoms, needs and challenges. People with ASD can have difficulties with social interaction and communication, but the most common symptoms are delays in development, lack of social interaction, and inappropriate response to stimuli. A crucial part of understanding their needs includes proper vision care.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Vulnerability To Eye Problems

Children with ASD have an increased rate of vision problems. According to researchers, many refractive errors, such as farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism may be common in children with autism. The same is true for strabismus, or crossed-eyes and amblyopia, known commonly as lazy eye.

All of these conditions can be treated and corrected. More importantly, they can even be prevented if they are caught early. Unfortunately, teachers, parents, and even some professionals assume that the behavior seen in kids with autism is the result of the disorder itself, and not a by-product of eye problems. They are then surprised to find that repetitive behaviors, poor eye contact and many other symptoms are caused by poor accommodation, fixation, or eye timing abilities.

The Impacts of Vision Problems in Children With ASD

Visual problems in children with ASD can negatively impact speech and language, as well as cognitive, perceptual and social-emotional development. More specifically, delays in development of the oculomotor function, binocular abilities and focusing can affect fine or gross motor ability and even language acquisition. For example, when there is no synchronization between the peripheral and central visual systems or when vision can’t coordinate with the vestibular system properly, it results in serious sensory problems. Poor eye contact and low visual awareness affect socialization and visualization that reduce chances for the development of skills and imaginative play. The time between 18 months to four years old is most important because vision is in development, as well as the socialization, language, and other crucial skills.

How To Determine If Your Child Needs Glasses

Parents with autistic children should ensure they get a comprehensive eye exam, regardless of whether or not they show any signs of vision problems. Common signs include getting close to objects and frequent squinting. Some children get startled by objects, which might mean they didn’t see them. Light sensitivity can also be a sign, though more often it shows some sensory issues.

The many aspects of healthy eyes and proper development for children with autism include early diagnosis of problems, proper treatment, and regular visits to an eye doctor who understands the child’s needs. Consistent follow up with care providers is also necessary.