Re-Thinking the Signs of Autism
There are certain tell-tale signs of autism that most parents and professionals immediately assume are due to an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); for example: lack of eye contact, staring at spinning objects or light, side viewing and difficulty maintaining visual attention. While these are common signs among those with ASD, these behaviors are often due to correctable vision disorders.
Many children with ASD and other developmental delays often have eye coordination and eye movement disorders contributing to their challenges—especially if they’ve had eye surgery. In some cases, the vision disorders are severe enough to lead a practitioner to misdiagnose a child with ASD.
In her book, Autism Solutions: How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for Your Child, Dr. Ricki Robinson, M.D., MPH, states, “Precise, coordinated eye movements are needed for focusing, eye tracking and binocular vision (eyes working together). All are required for maintaining eye contact and spatial awareness, even hand-eye coordination. All are potential concerns for children with ASD. However, if these skills are delayed, they can be learned.” An autism expert, Robinson is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Keck School of Medicine and the co-director of the Descanso Medical Center for Development and Learning in La Canada, California—a practice devoted to children and families affected by ASD.
Most parents are unaware that vision is the dominant sense. This is why when a child has an underlying vision deficit, the proper vision treatment can speed up other therapies, like physical, occupational and even speech.
For example: Rebecca, age 8, a second-grader, was non-verbal. She had been receiving occupational therapy for toe walking and speech therapy. After just two weeks of optometric vision therapy, her mom stopped into the office to tell the doctor that she had looked her mom in the eye and said, “I love you”. She had barely spoken prior to this point, and this is something her daughter had never said before. In addition, the toe walking had stopped.
A developmental vision evaluation is vital for all children on the spectrum, especially non-verbal children. Neuro-developmental vision evaluations should be part of every individual’s care who is on the spectrum or even suspected of being on the spectrum. To find a neuro-developmental optometrist near you, visit the Neuro-Optometric Vision Rehabilitation website at nora.cc.
Robert O. , III, OD, FCOVD, F-NORA specializes in comprehensive eye care from infants through seniors, as well as vision therapy, and works with Jessica , Clinical Director of Vision Therapy, at their practice, Strasburg Family Eyecare, located at 20 Lancaster Ave., in . For more information, call 717-687-8141, email Info@StrasburgFamily.com or visit StrasburgFamily.com. See ad, page 35, 36 & 52.