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Vision Therapy in Children with Autism

Introduction

Children with autism can have developmental issues with any of their senses, including vision.  An ASD child may have 20/20 vision, but may also have hand/eye coordination difficulties which result in developmental vision delays.  Various signs of vision issues may include: poor reading comprehension, inability to read, behavioral problems, inability to look at objects, speech and language delays, short attention span, letter reversal, and poor memory.  Behavioral Optometrists are specially trained optometrists who offer vision therapy for older children and prism eye glasses for younger children who are unable to do vision therapy.

VT is an important therapy that may improve attention and comprehension.  This is especially true for those with limited language skills and severe auditory processing issues.  Higher functioning children on the spectrum may find that VT can make the difference between being in a special needs classroom or a regular classroom.

Vision therapy typically takes place once or twice a week in a doctor's office, supplemented with 15-30 minutes per day of home therapy to reinforce skills.  While improvement is often seen in a month or so, therapy frequently continues for an average of three to nine months, and sometimes for as long as a couple of years, depending on the child and the severity of the visual dysfunction, to stabilize and solidify learned skills.  At the heart of vision therapy are activities individually designed to teach a person's eyes to move, align, fixate and focus as a team.  The brain learns to coordinate new messages from the eyes for improved perception and cognition.  Vision therapy tools include lenses and prisms (sometimes colored or tinted), balance boards, walking rails, chalkboards, balls, beanbags, computers, metronomes, and paper and pencil, all used in the context of movement.  During vision therapy, learning to use the eyes together first requires a conscious effort.  The ability to perform complex visual-motor activities – like skiing or writing – develops gradually.  The ultimate goal for children is to learn to use their two eyes together so their right and left hemispheres in the brain process language and comprehension simultaneously.  This needs to occur in order to integrate vision with movement and other senses effortlessly and automatically.

Related Sites

Autism: Advanced Vision Therapy
Description:  This site provides plenty of useful information for parents to understand how developmental vision impacts their child with autism.

Vision and Conceptual Development Center
Description:  The Vision and Conceptual Development Center offers a broad array of vision therapies geared toward children and adults. Each patient receives his or her own individualized, custom-made program. This is developed by the VCDC optometrist and provided one-to-one to the patient by the VCDC vision therapist. They help patients develop the visual skills necessary for success in life.

Minnesota Vision Therapy Center
Description:  Minnesota Vision Therapy Center is a nationally recognized leader in both diagnosis and treatment with functional vision problems.

Pressvision
Description:  This is the web site of Dr. Leonard Press. Dr. Press has been recognized internationally for his work in the field of learning-related vision problems. He has many patients on the autism spectrum and his web site discusses vision related symptoms and treatments for children with autism.

Books

Improving Your Child’s Eyesight Naturally by Janet Goodrich Ph.D.
Description:  This book details techniques to improve the eyesight of children.

Seeing Through New Eyes: Changing the Lives of Children with Autism, Asperger Syndrome and other Developmental Disabilities through Vision Therapy by Melvin Kaplan
Description:  Seeing Through New Eyes is literally changing lives of children with autism. Developmental vision is a poorly understood area of hand and eye coordination that is so vitally necessary for children on the autism spectrum. The ability to read, write, have spatial awareness, process the right and left hemispheres of the brain, have eye contact and much more is all related to developmental vision. Many behavioral problems are related to developmental vision issues also.

Eye Power: An Updated Report on Vision Therapy by Ann M. Hoopes, Dr. Stanley A. Appelbaum, Dr. Leonard J. Press
Description:  Eye Power: An Updated Report on Vision Therapy is a powerful account of how to change the lives of children struggling with focus and concentration, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Brain injury and so on. Vision Therapy can open many academic doors because children can acquire reading skills, improved cognition and better processing of language. This book really helps parents see the potential their children can have with Vision Therapy.

The Role of Vision in Autism Spectrum Disorders: More than Meets the Eye by Patricia S. Lemer, M. Ed., NCC
Description:  This is a two part article. In Part 1, learn that visual dysfunction often interferes with many aspects of development in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Part 2 discusses the vision therapy aspects that specially trained optometrists and educators can provide.

Tools

Developing Ocular Motor and Visual Perceptual Skills: An Activity Workbook by Kenneth Lane OD FCOVD
Description:  This book is very well organized with practical lesson plans for teachers, occupational therapists, optometrist and other professionals working with learning disabled children who need to improve ocular motor and visual perceptive skills.

Eyegames: Easy and Fun Visual Exercises: An OT and Optometrist Offer Activities to Enhance Vision! by Lois Hickman, Rebecca Hutchins
Description:  This book contains a variety of fun developmental visual/motor activities for children indoors and outdoors. Also included is a check list of how to recognize developmental vision problems based on behavioral optometry.

Vision Therapy: A Treatment for Autism
Description:  This video is about a young child with autism and how treatment with vision therapy improved his life by being able to attend to tasks, thinking, resolving problems and focus and concentrate.

Vision Therapy: A Treatment for Autism
Description:  This video discusses and demonstrates examples of vision therapy treatments for children with autism.

Parent Forums/Blogs

Some forums require you to sign in to Yahoo or Facebook to locate forum names.

Forum/Blog Name:  An Autism Journey and Vision Therapy
Description:  A mom with a child with autism tells her success story about vision therapy.

Forum/Blog Name:  DIY Vision Therapy
Description:  This Facebook group is for individuals looking to share their own experience and methods in vision therapy.

Forum/Blog Name:  Vision Therapy - A Place To Talk About Vision Therapy
Description:  This club is for all those interested in or doing vision therapy.

Forum/Blog Name:  Vision Therapy Changed My Life
Description:  This Facebook group was created for the purpose of individuals to share their own personal experience with vision therapy.

Forum/Blog Name:  Vision Therapy Parents Unite
Description:  This Facebook group was created to raise awareness of the benefits of vision therapy.

Forum/Blog Name:  Vision_Therapy
Description:  This Yahoo group for parents, teachers, doctors, and others interested in vision therapy. Vision therapy is performed by behavioral optometrists to treat binocular vision problems such as amblyopia, strabismus, lazy eye, wall eyes, etc.