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Vision Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Vision therapy and autism spectrum disorders.

Every disorder has impact on quality of life. Evidence based interventions can have a positive impact on the well-being life of autistic people as well as their caregivers. Actions at the community and social levels must go hand in hand with care for people with autism to promote greater inclusivity and support. In this blog, we will talk about vision therapy for autism spectrum disorders. We will discuss vision problems connected to that, and explore the efficiency of vision therapy.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder which is characterized by deficiencies in social interaction, and repetitive unusual patterns of behavior, interests, or activities and communication.

Individuals with ASD may experience challenges with verbal and non-verbal communication, struggle to understand social cues and emotions, and engage in repetitive behaviors or restricted interests.

The Prevalence of Autism

According to WHO (World Health Organization), one in hundred children has autism worldwide. Furthermore, autism is a rising issue in the modern world. According to Bendix (2023), autism rates tripled among children in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas in the 2000-2016 period.

”One in 54 children had been diagnosed with autism by age 8 in 2016, compared to one in 150 in 2000.”

Causes of Autism

The causes of autism are still not well-understood. However, the latest studies reveal that autism is a result of genetic and environmental factors. Furthermore, other factors can also contribute to the development of autism.

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Environmental factors contribute to the development of autism.

Genetic Factors

Autism usually runs in families. Furthermore, data suggests that specific gene mutations can raise the chance of autism.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are best understood before and during the birth. Cases that may increase risk for autism include exposure to air pollution or pesticides, maternal obesity, diabetes, or immune system disorders, and any birth problem that causes period of oxygen deprivation in the baby’s brain.

Other Factors

Some infections during pregnancy and low birth weight can increase the risk of a child having an autism. Additionally, some biological conditions can contribute to autism, such as issue with growth, problems with metabolism and body’s immune system, and problems with brain connections.

While racial disparities in autism diagnosis have decreased, they still exist. Historically, black and Hispanic children have had lower rates of autism than white children.

It’s important to note that vaccines are not linked to autism.

Difficulties for Individuals with Autism

The wide range of motor difficulties in ASD have been highlighted by a number of recent reviews. Gait, relying on visual information to maintain and alter balance and posture, manual dexterity, praxis, and issues with manipulating dynamical objects like aiming and catching are a few of these.

Most research highlights the fact that these motor issues can last throughout adolescence and adulthood.

Vision therapy for autism spectrum disorders can be beneficial.

Visual-Motor Integration

Children with ASD often have difficulties with visual-motor integration. Visual-motor integration (VMI) is the ability to guide movements by means of visual sensory information.

It is generally measured by Berry VMI test as the ability to copy geometric forms. ASD individuals appear to have difficulty coordinating their eye-hand motions, which may be a factor of their motor skills deficiency.

Study found out that visual perception and visual-motor integration are comparable with children without ASD disorder. Atypical motor skill performance, however, was discovered, indicating that motor skill deficiencies should be taken into account in the diagnosis process and while developing therapies for children with ASD. Visual perception and visual-motor integration did not seem to be related to the motor skills of children with ASD.

Visual-motor integration (VMI) is the ability to guide movements by means of visual sensory information.
Beery Visual-Motor Integration (VMI) test
Image credits: Joan Stiles

Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD)

Many individuals on the spectrum experience atypical sensory processing, and vision is no exception.

Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD) refers to a condition where the eyes have difficulty working together as a team. It occurs when the brain struggles to combine the slightly different images seen by each eye.

Research on the prevalence of BVD in autism is still in its early stages, but emerging evidence suggests that there may be a connection between the two. Some studies have found a higher prevalence of BVD in individuals with autism compared to neurotypical individuals, indicating a possible link between the conditions.

Vision Problems Are Connected to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Common vision problems associated with ASD include:

  • Tracking objects moving quickly,
  • Maintaining eye contact with people
  • Processing reactions to visual stimuli,
  • Looking beyond or through objects,
  • Aligning their eyes (strabismus),
  • Keeping the eyes from wandering (lazy eye),
  • Having light sensitivity,
  • Eye-rolling.

Vision Therapy for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

The goal of vision therapy is to strengthen the neural connections between the eyes and the brain and to enhance visual abilities.

For a child with ASD, vision therapy will promote better visual processing, allowing them to comprehend their environment with more certainty—and subsequently improve associated behaviors like anxiety, social skills, and language skills.

Many vision therapy programs for children with ASD focus on central vision, peripheral stability, efficient eye coordination, and visual information processing.

Conclusion: Vision Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders

“In conclusion, vision therapy can substantially help improve vision problems associated with ASD and, consequently, elevate quality of life, not just for the person affected but also for those around them”.

Get your AmblyoPlay Vision Therapy today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder which is characterized by deficiencies in social interaction, and repetitive unusual patterns of behavior, interests, or activities and communication.

What causes autism?

The causes of autism are still not well-understood. However, the latest studies reveal that autism is a result of genetic and environmental factors. Furthermore, other factors can also contribute to the development of autism.

What vision issues individuals with ASD have?

Children with ASD often have difficulties with visual-motor integration. What is more, some researchers suggest there is also a connection between Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD) and autism. Common vision issues include tracking objects moving quickly, maintaining eye contact with people, processing reactions to visual stimuli, looking beyond or through objects, aligning their eyes (strabismus), keeping the eyes from wandering (lazy eye), having light sensitivity, eye-rolling.

Can vision therapy help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Yes. For a child with ASD, vision therapy will promote better visual processing, allowing them to comprehend their environment with more certainty—and subsequently improve associated behaviors like anxiety, social skills, and language skills. Many vision therapy programs for children with ASD focus on central vision, peripheral stability, efficient eye coordination, and visual information processing.

Source:
Faber, L., van den Bos, N., Houwen, S., Schoemaker, M. M., & Rosenblum, S. (2022). Motor skills, visual perception, and visual-motor integration in children and youth with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 96, 101998. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2022.101998

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Why Do We Suggest a Minimum Time of 6 Months for Success?

Based on the data from over 15,000 patients using AmblyoPlay, improvements start within 4 months, while optimal results take anywhere between 6-18 months on average. The duration of required training depends on the patient’s age, the severity of the problem, accompanying diseases, and adherence to the training program.