GLEN CARBON - Dr. Julie Steinhauer, OD, FCOVD, owner of Vision For Life, and one of a select group of functional vision doctors in the nation, says vision problems are very common in individuals with autism, but often go undiagnosed and untreated.

In conjunction with World Autism Awareness Month in April, 2021, Dr. Steinhauer said it is important for families to understand that behaviors of autistic individuals to cope with the sensory overload of the world around them can mask signs of a vision problem.

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“Many of the behaviors of an autistic individual are attributable to both autism and vision issues. They can include a lack of eye contact, staring at spinning objects or light, side viewing and difficulty with being visually present,” Dr. Steinhauer said.

According to Dr. Steinhauer in her YouTube video, How Autism And Vision Therapy Are Related - YouTube those with autism can also have problems coordinating their central and peripheral vision. “When asked to look at an object they may not be able to focus directly on it. They often scan it or look off to the side. Types of eye movement disorders and crossed eyes can be common with these individuals.”

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Steinhauer said many of these eye conditions can be improved with vision therapy. “Research has shown the right type of vision therapy can help individuals with autism improve eye-contact and gaze, central and peripheral integration, visual attention, visual-spatial abilities, balance and posture, visual efficiency and eye-tracking. It can also help with strabismus and lazy eye among other conditions.”

A functional vision therapy program, like those offered at Vision For Life, can include syntonics or photo light therapy to help reprocess the information between the brain and the eyes. It can also include age-appropriate exercises to help with eye-teaming, focusing, eye movements and visual processing to enhance the brain’s overall ability to control eye alignment.

“Vision therapy can significantly improve symptoms and positively impact your child’s social and communicative skills. The end goal is to improve any visual challenges they may be experiencing and ultimately improve their overall happiness and wellbeing.”

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