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The Autism Spectrum, The Visual Process and Vision Therapy
Visual development issues are extremely common in children on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately this fact continues to escape mainstream public awareness just as it continues to remain ignored by most healthcare professionals. Visual development is intimately linked to overall development. The development of the visual process is not addressed by most eye care professionals. The importance of visual development is poorly understood by the vast majority of medical doctors who work with children on the autism spectrum including pediatricians, pediatric ophthalmologists, child psychologists and even most developmental specialists. Many of these doctors are relied upon by parents seeking care for their children on the autism spectrum. Most eye doctors do not understand the visual needs and challenges of children on the autism spectrum. Behavioral optometrists are trained to assess and treat visual development issues in people of all ages and many behavioral optometrists are experienced in evaluating children on the autism spectrum.
The numbers and percentages of children on the autism spectrum are growing. The autism spectrum includes a diverse population including those with unspecified developmental delays and people with a number of conditions including attention deficit, Aspergers, and of course those with more significant autistic profiles who demonstrate little inclination or ability to interact emotionally or socially at the level we typically expect. Behavioral optometrists use lenses and vision therapy to help children on the autism spectrum maximize their potential to use the visual process and improve their chances to develop a broad range of skills that require the continued development of the visual process. It is interesting that other professionals are beginning to recognize the connections between visual development, visual abilities and the early diagnosis of autism though most of these professionals remain ignorant of what behavioral optometry has been offering developmentally delayed children for over sixty years.
artwork by Zachary Osmun
Most people think of 20/20 when they think of vision. I suspect you might be wondering what optometry has to offer children on the autism spectrum. There are of course many variations in behavior across the autism spectrum. One thing that is very common across the spectrum is the presence of visual issues. It is almost a certainty that a child on the autism spectrum has visual development issues. The signs of visual issues include difficulty initiating or maintaining eye contact, poor tracking and scanning skills, difficulty with coordination and balance, bumping into things and poor focusing and eye teaming abilities.
It is also important to know that visual development and general development are intimately linked. Many of these visual issues go unnoticed, are written off as unfortunate but unfixable or are simply ignored by most eye care (and other) professionals. It is necessary to seek out the right doctor who can adequately assess and help you understand your child’s visual status. Behavioral optometrists are well versed in observing, evaluating, diagnosing and providing treatment for visual issues in children on the autism spectrum.