Eye health is an extremely important, but often overlooked aspect of everyday life. For photographers like Kate and I, it’s even more vital to keep our peepers happy! But what about a link between autism and eyesight? There’s a huge debate as to whether autism directly affects the eyes, so I have compiled some facts and figures to bring some more awareness to the issue.
Up to 90% of individuals with autism lack the visual skills which provide optimal eye function.
In babies with autism, vision develops at a much slower rate, and so they continue to experience the world through touch for longer. This is why they may be extremely tactile, holding onto certain items for long periods, and becoming distressed with changes in their immediate environment.
This delay in development and resulting behaviors can lead to further problems below.
Strabismus, or crossed eyes, is present when the eyes do not properly align to look at an object. There can be a variety of causes, and developmental disorders are one of them. It can cause issues with depth perception, double vision and amblyopia (a lazy eye), depending on the age of onset. Strabismus can be managed with glasses, medication or surgery.
Cataracts are cloudy discs on the front of your eyes, which cause visual difficulties by stopping light from reaching the back of your retinas. Whilst there is no link between autism itself and cataracts, the behaviors that come alongside autism (stimming) can lead to damage to the eye. Repetitive blunt trauma to the head and eye areas can lead to cataracts, so it is important to recognize these behaviors to minimize this impact in later life. Cataracts are incredibly common and can be treated with surgery and solutions like Panoptix, to reverse the damage and restore eyesight.
Also known as a lazy eye, amblyopia can occur as a direct result of strabismus or any other vision-interfering developmental disorder, where the brain chooses to ignore the input from the weaker eye. Most commonly seen in children from the age of 5, it can be corrected through surgery, glasses or the use of an eye patch over the stronger eye, to force the use of the weaker ones.
Whilst not a specific eye problem, hyperstimulation from visual stimuli is very common in the autistic population. This is because the brain has trouble filtering out background movement and telling the difference between what’s happening in the periphery, and the immediate environment. This can be very stressful for the individual and can lead to stimming and other self-soothing behaviors, and also a lack of or difficulty maintaining eye contact. Vision therapy can be very beneficial in helping manage and calm hyperstimulation, as can removing or reducing potential environmental triggers.
This is not an exhaustive list. The presence of these eye issues does not necessarily equal autism and vice versa. It’s just always a good idea to be aware of your eyes and get them regularly tested regardless of any pre-existing health conditions!