Eye Care for Children with Autism

One in 59 children is estimated to have autism spectrum disorder by the age of eight, according to the CDC. People with ASD are neuro-divergent, meaning that their style of social interaction, communication, development, and learning may differ significantly from their peers. Children on the spectrum can benefit greatly from developmental eye care.

Eye Care for Children with Autism Optometrist
Specialty Vision

Numerous studies demonstrate that neuro-diverse children, and children on the spectrum specifically have a higher incidence of developmental vision problems such as strabismus, convergence, accommodation, stereopsis, and oculomotor function. It is therefore extremely important to schedule a developmental eye exam to assess the full scope of visual processes. 

Early detection and treatment of visual deficits in children with autism improves their educational and occupational opportunities.

Are you looking for an optometrist near you who is sensitive and knowledgeable about helping the neuro-diverse community? We welcome you to schedule a developmental eye exam. Our optometrists have extensive experience, the latest technology, advanced treatments, and a neuro-diverse friendly approach to provide advanced care to patients with ASD, Downs, Cerebral Palsy, Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, and all members of the neuro-diverse community.

This article was originally written by Dr. Carl Garbus of Family Vision Care and published by the American Optometric Association.

Why do children with autism need optometric care from an eyecare professional?

Why do children with autism need optometric care from an eyecare professional?

There is so much that eye doctors can do to help children with developmental disabilities. Eye doctors can play an important role in exposing and presenting this information to parents, as many don't realize that a child with learning problems needs a visual examination.

Approximately 70% to 80% of what we learn is through our visual system. If a child is having difficulty learning, there may be a visual disconnect or a poor integration with auditory and vestibular systems. Through proper vision therapy, visual, auditory, and vestibular systems work together more efficiently, and this facilitates learning. Occupational therapy and optometric vision rehabilitation can improve the functioning of autistic children significantly. The therapy program emphasizes multi-sensory stimulation.

Sensory overload can be a challenge for children on the autism spectrum as well as doctors of optometry. They must be taken care of at an optometry practice.

Why do children with autism need optometric care from an eyecare professional?

Why do children with autism need optometric care from an eyecare professional?

  • A child with autism may have limited interests, making it difficult to engage them in some learning activities.
  • Developmental delays are also common among children with autism. A delay can interfere with memory, communication, coordination, logic, and the ability to perform simple tasks independently.
  • Autism can also lead to problems with language development and speech delays, which is one of the first signs of autism.
  • It is common for children with autism to lack focus and find it difficult to concentrate at school.
  • They may have difficulty communicating non-verbally and therefore, struggle with making eye contact, expressing facial expressions, using body language, moving and touching.
How does a practice provide eye care for children with autism?

How does a practice provide eye care for children with autism?

Start by earning the patient's trust

Children with autism are afraid of doctors and do not want to go to them. Therefore, you should bring toys, books, games, whatever your child enjoys, to the evaluation. The exam room is child-friendly, with a variety of toys and videos to occupy and soothe children. It provides our eye doctor with an opportunity to observe their behavior as they play with whatever object they are interested in.

Ensure that the evaluation is conducted in a relaxed environment

Such children may be sensitive to bright light and other things. Therefore, we do not do our evaluation in a hurry. We take time to understand the child's needs and make appropriate modifications to meet them.

What tests are important in an eye exam for children with autism?

  • Lang Stereo Test
  • Child fixation targets that flash, make sounds and move 
  • The Hirschberg test
  • The Bruckner test
  • Use skiascopy bars to perform retinoscopy

Learn more about the patient's history

We try to learn about the patient's history. By sending a questionnaire to the parents early, we try to obtain the necessary information before the appointment. Because parents are the ones who spend the most time with their child. In that questionnaire, parents are asked to fill out an extensive symptoms checklist. Below are some examples of questions that could be included in the questionnaire:

  • What does your child eat throughout the day?
  • Do they have a special diet?
  • Do they suffer from light sensitivity? 
  • Do they squint while reading?

Collaborate with other health care providers

We also inquire about the child’s pediatrician and what types of treatments the child is currently receiving. We also collaborate with other health care providers, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists, in order to better understand the child's behavior and provide better care.

Common Questions

It may be helpful to prepare the child for the eye exam in advance by explaining the process and letting them know what to expect. Using visual supports, such as pictures or videos, may also be helpful in preparing the child for the exam.
Autism can affect vision and eye health in a number of ways. Some individuals with ASD may experience vision problems, including difficulty with eye tracking, eye teaming, and visual processing. They may also be sensitive to light or glare, or have difficulty with visual perception. It is important for individuals with ASD to receive regular eye exams to ensure that any vision problems are identified and treated as necessary.
Eye Care for Children with Autism
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Looking for an Eye Doctor Near You for a Child with Autism?

To schedule a developmental eye exam, reach out to your nearest listed practice either via a call or in-person visit.