Research on visual anomalies in autists

Assessment of visual function in autistic children

"Children with autism demonstrate 'atypical' gaze or social "looking" and frequently manifest such sterotypies as eye pressing, hand flicking, and light gazing. This study's purpose was to evaluate autistic children for visual dysfunction that may be related to the manifested visual signs and symptoms. Thirty-four autistic children, ages 2 to 11 years (median age = 7 years, 6 months) were evaluated for ocular alignment, refractive error, visual acuity, oculomotility skills, and stereopsis. None of the children manifested ocular disease, known seizure disorders, or dysmorphic features. Their developmental levels ranged from average intelligence to severely retarded.
Given these findings, research with this population should be pursued further."

[Assessment of visual function in autistic children. Scharre JE et al, 1992]

Ophthalmologic signs in children with autism

"Ten autistic children, 6 girls and 4 boys, underwent a complete ophthalmologic examination in the Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology at the Hospital La Timone, Marseilles, France. Their age ranged from 1 to 14 years (mean = 8.5 +/- 3.8).

RESULTS: Refraction showed:
CONCLUSION: Ophthalmologic findings in autistic children appear to be mainly unilateral or bilateral astigmatism and binocular vision troubles. They can lead to amblyopia (chronic visual disorders) with the risk of functional loss of vision. Early diagnosis of visual problems in autistic children is also essential in order to be able to propose adequate psychological and educational cares for the children and their family.”

Ophthalmologic signs in children with autism; Denis D et al; 1997

Are there "autistic-like" features in congenitally blind children?

"A comparison between the 15 blind children who had IQs over 70 and 10 sighted children group-matched for age and verbal ability revealed that a number of autistic-like features were more common in the blind. When the nine blind children who had IQs less than 70 were compared with nine group-matched autistic children, the picture that emerged was of substantial overlap in clinical presentation, despite subtle differences on clinical impression. Similar results were obtained when blind subgroups were reconstituted according to the children's nonautistic or autistic-like clinical presentation, rather than IQ."

Are there "autistic-like" features in congenitally blind children?; Brown, R., Hobson, R.P., Lee, A., Stevenson, J., Tavistock Clinic, London, U.K.; J. Child. Psychol. Psychiatry 1997 Sep, 38:6, 693-703

Relation between blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity and autistic spectrum disorders

“Children with blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)—who are at greatly increased risk of cerebral damage - have been noted to have a high rate of autistic symptoms, but systematic controlled studies have been lacking. A controlled population-based study was performed; one group was blind due to ROP (N=27) and the other was congenitally blind due to hereditary retinal disease (N=14). Fifteen of the 27 children with ROP had autistic disorder.” (2)

Relation between blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity and autistic spectrum disorders: a population-based study; Ek, U., Fernell, E., Jacobson, L., Gillberg, C.; Department of Psychology, University of Stockholm, Sweden; Dev. Med. Child. Neurol. 1998 May, 40:5, 297-301.

Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome

"There is growing evidence, based on both research and personal reports, that many autistic individuals see their world in a maladaptive, dysfunctional manner. Researchers at U.C.L.A. and the University of Utah have found evidence of abnormal retinal activity in autistic individuals. Additionally, there are many visual problems which are often associated with autism, such as reliance on peripheral vision; tunnel vision; hypersensitivity to light; and stereotypic (repetitive) behavior near the eyes, such as hand-flapping and finger-flicking. . . Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome is a visual-perceptual problem which occurs in some people with learning/reading disorders, autism, and other developmental disorders. People with Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome experience 'perceptual stress' which can lead to a variety of perceptual distortions when reading and/or viewing their environment. Scotopic Sensitivity is triggered by one or more components of light, such as the source of the light (e.g., fluorescent lighting, sun), luminance (e.g., reflection, glare), intensity (i.e., brightness), wavelength (i.e., color), and/or color contrast."

from: Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome and the Irlen Lens System by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.

Irlen Institute
5380 Village Road
Long Beach, Ca 90808
ph: 562-496-2550
fax: 562-429-8699
email: Irlen@Irlen.com

Dietary management of nystagmus

"Two case reports illustrate the therapeutic response of congenital nystagmus to a diet eliminating synthetic food colors, synthetic food flavors, the antioxidant preservatives butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and a small group of foods thought to contain a natural salicylate radical. A brief discussion of the hyperkinetic syndrome is offered with the proposal that a variety of neurologic and neuromuscular disturbances (grand mal, petit mal, psychomotor seizures; La Tourette syndrome; autism; retardation; the behavioral component of Down's syndrome; and oculomotor disturbances) may be induced by identical chemicals, depending upon the individual's genetic profile and the interaction with other environmental factors. It is perhaps the failure to integrate all the signs presented by the various clinical patterns with hyperkinesis or Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD) under a single heading that eye muscle involvement manifested as either nystagmus or strabismus has not been emphasized as part of the hyperkinetic syndrome.

Dietary management of nystagmus; Feingold BF 1979

Anecdotal reports

"My son Kipfer, who has ADHD, has been squinting since he was a baby basically. He has had glasses since he was 10 months old and eye surgery when he was 2 for strabismus (lazy eyes). His eye doctors told me that the pigments in the eye are very thin and that's why he squints. He is very sensitive to lights. He also squints when he is getting tired."
 Diane Fox, Mother of Kipfer 9 ADHD/ODD, Tad 3 HFA, and Cheyenne 1 NT

"Hi friends Please, help! Today a new student started in our special school and his diagnosis is Asperger's. But from 1993 up to now, he was considered blind, or someone with subnormal visual hability. He was studying at a school for blind childrem, but he shows a lot of autistic symptoms, like echolalia, body movements, repetitive behaviors, routines, and special habilities like wonderful memory. He can also calculate very fast and is excelent in dates and birthdates ( he can asnswer if 4th july in 1917 was a saturday, sunday or monday, for example). The doctors said he is visually normal, but he cant use his visual hability in a functional way. My question is: what do you thing about it? What’s the relationship between PDD and low vision?? Is something that has to do with sensory integration? The family is wondering why the specialists did not suspect about the PDD before. I knew him today. His history with me starts today, but they spent years there, in that school. He sees. That’s all.