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Sunday 28 May 2017

Reduced Visual Convergence in People with Autism

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A study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, reported they found a significant difference in the visual convergence in people with autism as compared to typically developing age-matched control subjects.

Visual convergence is the ability of the eyes to turn inward to maintain binocular focus on an object or image. Convergence Insufficiency is when the eyes are not able to work together to focus. It impacts a persons ability to see, read, learn, and work close-up and is diagnosable by a developmental optometrist (not a regular optometrist). Treatment includes in-clinic and in-home vision therapy.

Many people with autism undergo the typical visual acuity tests with typical results; they are similarly impacted with vision acuity issues as the rest of us. Unfortunately, vision testing typically stops here. This could be a huge disservice to people with autism because they could be having other significant issues not typically covered by annual vision tests. To get an accurate assessment of how well the eyes are working together, which addresses the eye itself and the brain, you need to visit a developmental optometrist who is experienced in working with people with autism.

Symptoms of the eyes not working together properly include (From http://www.convergenceinsufficiency.org/):
* eyestrain (especially with or after reading)
* headaches
* blurred vision
* double vision
* inability to concentrate
* short attention span
* frequent loss of place
* squinting, rubbing, closing or covering an eye
* sleepiness during the activity
* trouble remembering what was read
* words appear to move, jump, swim or float
* problems with motion sickness and/or vertigo

A person with autism may or may not be able to communicate they are having these issues, but we may be able to detect behaviors which possibly indicate they are having problems. These may include: rocking, squinting, looking out of the corner of the eyes, avoiding eye contact, covering one eye, avoiding extended periods of visual attention, trouble copying text from far away, inability to catch and/or follow quickly moving objects. The best course of action, in my opinion, is for everyone to go to a developmental optometrist and get your child checked no matter if you detect issues or not. Many times the issues can start out small but get worse and harder to treat with age. This may be another piece of the puzzle for your child which could improve their quality of life.

To read more about vision issues and vision therapy, I recommend the book “Seeing Through New Eyes: Changing the Lives of Children with Autism, Asperger Syndrome and other Developmental Disabilities through Vision Therapy”.

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