I think most people have heard about the term ‘Autism’ . But actually this is still being researched.
April month is National Autism Awareness month and it’s an opportunity to learn more about this disorder and how it can affect an individual vision.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. It involves a developmental disability that causes communication issues, behavioral and social challenges in an individual life.
It is called a “Spectrum” disorder because people with ASD have various range of symptoms. They might have problems talking to you, or they might lose eye contact while talking to you . They may have repetitive behaviours. They are often seen in their “OWN WORLD”.
In 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that nearly 1 in 59 children have been identified with ASD.
Autism society reports that throughout the world, about 1% of the total population has autism. In the US, about 3.5 million people have ASD.
The exact cause is idiopathic. But some research suggests that both genes and environment play a vital role for this. Some suspected risk factors are mentioned below.
- Fragile X syndrome and other genetic disorders.
- Low birth weight
- Metabolic imbalance
- History of viral infections
- Being born to older parents
- Having an immediate family member with autism.
- Fetal exposure to the medications valproic acid or thalidomide (thalomid)
Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms
- Repetitive Actions
- Lack of Eye Contact or Poor Eye Contact
- Language delay
- Intense focus in particular topic
- Learning disability
- Abnormal body posture
- Self-Abusive Behaviours
- Social Withdrawal
- Lack of empathy
- Problems with two-way conversation
- Avoiding physical affection
The exact cause of ASD is unknown. So the reason for the visual problem is also not completely clear. But the following problems are common.
- Eye movement disorder
Disorders, such as strabismus are very common with people having ASD. It occurs when the eyes point in different directions and are not properly aligned. For instance : one eye pointing upward and the other pointing inward. Prevalence of strabismus is higher in people with ASD than in the general population as per the Research in Journal Strabismus.
- Visual defensiveness
People having ASD often have hypersensitive reactions to stimuli. Visually defensive persons avoid contact with specific visual input and might have hypersensitive vision.They have difficulty with visually holding still and frequently rely on a constant scanning of visual information in an attempt to get meaning.
- Spatial visual processing problems
This may lead to repetitive visual behaviour such as watching moving objects or repeated blinking.
Treatment plan to improve quality of life
Currently, there is not a standard treatment for ASD but treating visual issues is often a part of overall treatment is a first step.Main aim of treatment is to gain more efficient eye coordination, improve visual information processing, to organize visual space, attend to and appreciate central vision, to gain peripheral stability and so on.
Vision assessment plays an important role to determine specific issues and plan for treatment. Assessment will be quite a challenging job for autistic patients . Usually, experienced eye care professional who is experienced in performing comprehensive eye exam and vision assessment can perform this task. Though it can be challenging, improvement can be made.
” Vision therapy ” is recommended . This therapy includes activities to improve eye movement, including tracking. Duration depends on the case but mostly for autistic therapy duration is 6 to 9 months.
Treating vision issues related to ASD can help to improve all aspects of an individual life . As for instance, improving eye contact can gain or improve social skills which is directly proportional to self-esteem. So if social skills improve, self-esteem will automatically rise.