If your child has been diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD, vision therapy may help solve reading problems.

Take just a moment and reply to the questions below:

Is your child with autism disruptive or uncooperative with close tasks?

Does he or she have illegible handwriting, write uphill or downhill on paper?

Does your child with autism seem to have no depth perception or frequently bump into things?

Does your child avoid all eye contact, choose not to look at the blackboard, have a stiff legged walk, appear to over-use peripheral vision or poke at the sides of the eyes?

Does your child seem unable to catch even a large ball or appear to have other eye-hand coordination problems?

If your child is reading, has he or she child complained that words on a page jump around, or skip lines when reading aloud? Does your child skip over the punctuation at the end of a sentence?

Does your child seem to know a word on one page and not recognize the same word on the very next page?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, then your child who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum may have an undetected visual or perceptual problems that may have been mistaken for normal autism spectrum behaviors. Vision therapy can help.

However, as you read on, you will most likely discover that these problems can be corrected with the proper diagnosis and vision therapy treatment.

If you have taken your child for a regular eye exam, you may have been told that your child has 20/20 vision and naturally assume that he or she has the ability to read easily or can participate in sport activities with no problems.

In addition, you may think that all of the other behaviors listed above are simply “autistic” in nature and must require behavior modification or can be taught with numerous repetitions. This may not be the case at all. Vision therapy may very well be the answer.

Why 20/20 Eyesight is not good enough for your child and How Vision Therapy Helps

You may be surprised to learn that your child’s 20/20 eyesight diagnosis (even with corrective lenses) is completely unrelated to reading or eye-hand coordination activities at near point.

When your child covers one eye during an exam and reads a chart with letters at 20 feet away, he or she is using an outdated chart from the 1800s, known as the Snellen Chart, which simply says that your child can see a certain size letter from 20 feet away!

This chart only measures clearness and sharpness of eyesight using a stationary target.

As soon as parents and teachers hear this, they always ask the same questions.

How many children read books from 20 feet away, and isn’t there more to reading and sensory motor activities than distance eyesight at 20 feet away?

Vision therapy is a series of exercises and treatments that can help improve all visual tasks including at near point and at distance.

Eyesight and Vision Myth That Vision Therapy Corrects

It is important to know that your child needs both eyesight and strong vision to be able to read and perform everyday activities.

Yet, few parents or teachers realize that eyesight and vision are very different skills.

Eye doctors who specialize in learning-related vision disorders tell us why and how a treatment known as vision therapy can make a world of difference for your child with autism.

Eyesight, or the ability to see, is present at birth.

Vision has to be learned as your child grows.  Eye doctors who specialize in learning-related vision screenings and vision therapy tell us that vision is so complicated it involves about 20 visual abilities and more than 75%–90% of all pathways to the brain.

Visual skills allow your child to comprehend and make meaning from what he or she sees. This training is available in vision therapy.

When a child does a variety of activities, such as coloring, jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, playing with jacks, running, jumping, playing baseball or basketball, riding a bike, building forts, skating and many more, he or she is learning skills that will make him or her a great reader later on.

Today, however, millions of children are doing very different things from those you did when you were a child.

You are correct if you think they are indoors more of the time.

They are sitting in front of a computer screen at a very young age, (sometimes as early as age one), watching thousands of hours of television (studies show that children watch anywhere from three to seven hours of television a day), and playing video games for hours on end. Your autistic child may be hyperfocused on small things for untold hours.

While these indoor activities may have some value, turned to excessively they actually limit your child’s visual development and will cause reading problems in the future. Yet, vision therapy activities can make all the difference.

The human visual system is not designed for constant nearpoint activities according to eye doctors who perform vision therapy.

Your child may develop so much visual stress, he or she will have to work twice as hard to get the same results as other kids. In addition, your child won’t learn how to develop eye movement skills like tracking (so they can read smoothly and not skip a line), eye-focusing skills, eye-aiming skills, visual perception, peripheral vision, eye-hand coordination (involved in playing sports, copying from the book to the paper or from the board to the paper), right-left directionality (know the difference between a b and d, p and q), and much more.

When your child enters school or is reading at home, his or her visual problems may actually worsen.

Children are required to read far more material than you ever had to as a child.

The demand on their visual systems is much heavier than it was for you. Since visual skill testing is limited or absent, and your child may not be able to verbalize what he or she is feeling, you also have no way of knowing whether there is further stress on the visual system like eye turns or lazy eye, both of which make reading and other activities very painful and difficult. Vision therapy can help.

Thus, if you have a child with autism, “normal” autistic behaviors such as looking through or beyond objects, aversion to light, lack of reciprocal play, fear of heights, poor reading skills or inability to participate in sports activities may all be related to a weak visual system.

This system is so critical to behavior and reading that it can impact nearly every activity your child does. This is where reading specialists and eye doctors who treat these problems with vision therapy can help.

The following chart shows the relationship between vision skills and everyday tasks your child performs. Vision therapy, if needed, will help improve all of these vision skills.

Vision skills needed for typical reading, classroom and other tasks

Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

Classroom

Tasks

 

¯

Tracking

Visual Memory

Figure Ground

Eye Movement Control / Fixation

Simultaneous Focusing At Near

Simultaneous Focusing At Far

Sustaining Focusing At Near

Sustaining Focusing At Far

Eye Teaming/ Sustaining Alignment At Near

Eye Teaming/Sustaining Alignment At Far

Central Vision

Peripheral Vision

Depth Awareness

Color Retention and/or contrast

Gross Visual Motor

Fine Visual Motor

Visual Perception / Directionality/Closure

Eye Hand Coordination

Simultaneous Alignment At Near

Simultaneous Alignment Far

Reading

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

x

 

x

x

 

?

 

x

x

 

x

 

Copying

(CB to desk)

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

 

 

 

x

x

 

 

x

x

x

x

x

x

Copying

(at desk)

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

x

 

x

x

 

 

x

x

x

x

x

 

Writing

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

x

 

x

x

 

x

 

x

x

x

x

 

Discussion

x

x

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

x

x

 

 

 

 

x

 

 

x

Demonstration

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

 

 

 

x

x

x

?

x

 

x

 

 

x

Movies, TV

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

x

 

x

x

x

 

?

 

 

x

 

 

x

P.E., Dancing

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

x

x

 

x

Art, Crafts

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

x

 

Play

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Computers

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

x

x

 

 

 

x

x

x

x

 

Taking notes

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

 

 

x

x

 

 

 

x

x

x

x

 

 

Why your child must have a comprehensive learning-related vision exam and follow-up vision therapy activities, if prescribed

Since eyesight and vision are at the very core of your child’s ability to read and learn many activities, it is critical that you provide your child with a comprehensive, learning-related vision exam before embarking on other therapies.Vision therapy can provide the foundation that makes all other activities easier to complete with little or no difficulty.

A substantial number of “autistic” symptoms may simply be a vision problem in disguise. Specially trained optometrists, known as developmental or behavioral optometrists, can properly diagnose and treat your child.

vision therapy Once your child has this exam, he or she may be prescribed a very specific series of exercises and visual activities, and you may be very surprised to discover that many of the behaviors you thought were “autistic” in nature, improve or disappear altogether with vision therapy.

Vision therapy exercises consist of treatments that may include eye prisms, tracking, improving focusing skills, and many more.  All of these exercises can improve your child’s life who has autism and solve their reading problems.

Vision therapy is helpful for many children and adults whether or not they have autism, however, those on the spectrum often struggle with certain perceptual problems that when cleared with vision therapy, create other improvements in their lives.

 

Pat Wyman Pat Wyman is the founder of HowToLearn.com, best selling author, reading specialist and university instructor.  She is known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.  Wyman specializes in helping solve learning and reading problems and often recommends vision therapy. Many developmental optometrists recommend her I Read I Succeed home exercises as part of a program of vision therapy.

Posted by +Pat Wyman, author and founder of HowToLearn.com