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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
- Of the 34 children, 21% were strabismic at far and 18% were strabismic
- Only 14.7% of the children exhibited voluntary pursuit movements,and
- all the children demonstrated saccadic fixations.
- Thirty-one children had atypical optokinetic nystagmus (OKN) (unusual
eye movement) responses such as delayed onset, short duration, gaze avoidance,
or stereotypic behavior.
[Assessment of visual function in autistic children. Scharre JE et
"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).
Ophthalmologic signs in children with autism
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.”
- Hypermetropia (far-sighted) in 7 cases (70%);
- Astigmatism (Unequal curvature of the refractive surfaces of the eye
hence a point source of light cannot be brought to a point focus on the
retina, but is spread over a diffuse area) in 6 cases (60%)
- Strabismus (deviation of the eye which the patient cannot overcome)
was present in 6 cases (60%)
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
“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.”
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.
5380 Village Road
Long Beach, Ca 90808
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
Dietary management of nystagmus; Feingold BF 1979
"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
"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.