Is visual impairment commonly related to autism?
Autism and eyesight are topics that capture the attention of many individuals involved in the care of neurodivergent individuals. The relationship between these two is currently a topic of ongoing debate. While some studies assert that being diagnosed with autism makes individuals more prone to visual problems or blindness, others disassociate this risk. So, if you’re wondering, “Is visual impairment commonly related to autism?” In this blog by ABA Centers of America, we will explore various theories surrounding autism and vision, delving into research and shedding light to understand better how individuals on the spectrum see the world.
Autism and Eyesight: Delving into Physical Aspects
Individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) grapple with sensory processing, encompassing textures, sounds, and sight. Hence, the link between autism and eyesight becomes a crucial subject to address. According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is a direct impact of autism on vision, with approximately 52% of individuals with autism exhibiting some form of ocular anomaly, compared to the neurotypical population, which has a 3%-8% prevalence. These figures include:
- 7% with anisometropia – Varied refractive powers in the eyes
- 11% with amblyopia – Lazy eye
- 27% with significant refractive defects – Eye shape hindering direct light deviation
- 41% with strabismus – Crossed eyes
Moreover, an extensive study published by the National Library of Medicine strengthens the correlation between autism and visual impairment. Researchers analyzed national census data for 5.3 million people, revealing that blindness is approximately three times more common in children on the spectrum than in their typical peers, and neurodiverse adults experience it at a rate 1.5 times higher than the standard frequency.
Although there are several theories about the impact of autism on vision, this field remains relatively unexplored. Fortunately, the influence of autism on neurological connections is an area that makes the spectrum a world to explore.
Neurological Variances in Vision within Neurodiversity
While some research suggests that individuals with ASD may experience more common visual challenges, other theories take an unexpected turn, asserting that individuals with autism might possess superior vision compared to neurotypical individuals.
Addressing matters related to autism is inherently complex, making it challenging to provide a definitive “yes” or “no” answer. Indeed, individuals with autism demonstrate an enhanced ability to thoroughly process aspects of an image, thereby noticing details that may elude the majority. Neurotypical individuals often focus on a visually prominent detail and connect it to other relevant aspects of the image for comprehension, resulting in a vision experience with a singular focal point.
In contrast, the autistic brain prioritizes finding patterns and comprehending the intricacies of how things fit together, which means that when an individual views an image, the neurodivergent brain categorizes everything in sight, starting from a neutral central point and expanding outward. It consciously avoids fixating on faces or details that may carry high uncertainty at a superficial level.
In essence, individuals with autism may have the same visual acuity as their non-autistic counterparts, but their brains learn to leverage information contained in images more optimally.
Understanding Visual Overload
While individuals with autism may possess physical traits that enable them to process information and navigate the world uniquely, research also sheds light on the complications the brain may encounter when attempting to process the surrounding environment. These issues extend from sensory overload to binocular rivalry in the vision of individuals on the spectrum.
When individuals gather too much visual information too rapidly for processing, they simultaneously have two misaligned images: what they see and what they are trying to comprehend.
However, with appropriate support, individuals with autism can learn to manage these challenges or hurdles. These traits are the reason why the intersection of autism and eyesight presents a challenge for the neurodiverse community.
Autism and Vision Issues: Unraveling the Complexity
Vision is crucial for learning and understanding the world, highlighting the impact of vision issues or unique image processing in individuals with autism. Despite this, there exists a lack of understanding that can lead to harm, exclusion, and overlooking of the potential within the autistic community.
If we were to consider all current theories as valid, we could conclude that the impact of autism on vision is a distinctive characteristic of the disorder, highlighting the need for improved ocular support from the point of diagnosis. It is essential to delve deeper into research to understand how individuals with autism process images, promoting talent and embracing unique perspectives.
A deeper understanding of autism and eyesight can also shed light on autism. Monitoring the development of children with vision disorders or other congenital causes of blindness can help scientists identify early signs of autism and enhance comprehension of the biological and environmental influences and the brain areas crucial for studying autism spectrum disorder.
Furthermore, understanding the incidence of autism in vision, whether related to visual issues or image interpretation, can aid in developing methods that benefit autism therapies for children. Approaching autism and eyesight can contribute to creating practical approaches to enhance their learning and overall development.
ABA Centers of America: Supporting Individuals with Autism and Visual Issues
At ABA Centers of America, we work tirelessly every day to assist individuals with autism, whether they have visual issues or not. Through our Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, delivered by trained professionals in ABA care, we teach children and adolescents on the spectrum life skills that propel them toward independence to the best of their ability. In our therapy sessions, we employ visual supports, technology to encourage communication, art therapy, and games to address the different needs of our clients and ensure their progress.