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Visual impairment and ASD, a link?

(49 Posts)
MangoMonster Wed 12-Oct-11 18:49:53

Just seen on an email from sensory integration network and NAS conference a talk about the following:

Autism is more common in visually impaired children than in fully sighted children. In this seminar we will explore the nature of autism in visually impaired children, and discuss meeting the needs of children who have a visual impairment and autism. We will focus on the Resource Pack recently published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) the UK's leading charity offering information, support and advice to people with sight loss.

Sorry if I'm being dense but is this link between ASD and vision common knowledge?

zzzzz Wed 12-Oct-11 20:05:54

never heard of it but given the extreme idiocy of the young woman who gave ds his eye-test can't help but think it will be linked soon.

ie Can you point to the ball? [she meant circle and had shown him a real ball in the section of the test before so he tried to show her where it was]

"What's this?" pointing at a picture of a house. When ds said "door" which was where her finger was she said "ok we can call it door" and then proceeded to not understand every time he used it.

I tried to help and explain his language difficulties but she wrote "no comprehension" across his notes instead. hmm

On a more serious note I'm guessing that if you are ASD you would find it even harder if visually impaired and so SHOW more asd like symptoms.

ThePumpkinofDoomandTotalCha0s Wed 12-Oct-11 20:30:10

Hmm, had a quick google, and the RNIB describes having a visual impairment and ASD as being low incidence/very low incidence, which doesn't suggest there is that strong a link /baffled.

coff33pot Wed 12-Oct-11 20:41:00

No not heard of this link to be honest.

oodlesofdoodles Wed 12-Oct-11 21:03:13

Our neurologist mentioned this to me. It's not that ASD children are visually impaired, it's that blind babies/children miss out on so much non verbal and pre verbal interaction that they may develop ASD type traits.
There's some Scandinavian studies including this:

MangoMonster Wed 12-Oct-11 21:14:54

oodles, that exactly what myself, dp and family have suspected about DS but none of the experts think that could be the case.

MangoMonster Wed 12-Oct-11 21:17:47

Thanks, I'll take a look at the paper. Wish I'd know there could be an impact on his development when we decided to treat his eye condition, make have prepared us to help him overcome any effects of the patching. However, our eye surgeon assured us there would be no impact sad.

oodlesofdoodles Wed 12-Oct-11 21:40:35

Is your DS visually impaired then? How is his vision now?

oodlesofdoodles Wed 12-Oct-11 21:42:04

This may be of interest to you then:

Lolaismyfavouriteandmybest Wed 12-Oct-11 22:34:19

Dd is visually impaired and has a diagnosis of ASD. Our support worker says that our CDC diagnose or try to diagnose lots of her children with ASD citing evidence like not making eye contact, not being able to read social situations (well she is missing all non verbal cues!) rigidity of play is also a normal response to reduced stimulation (dd has to be shown how to play with something rather than just working it out by looking at it or watching what others do) I can't remember the other bloomin bit of the triad but it was also explainable by VI.

I'm also Visually impaired and the cheeky doc at CDC said dd's ASD should come as no surprise to us as it clearly runs in the family!!!! Cos I don't make eye contact etc.....

It's like they see what they want to see (no pun intended)

But in today's crazy world dd's school are so focused for ASD it is far easier for me to get small changes made by raising the ASD diagnosis than saying she needs adaptions due to VI!

zzzzz Wed 12-Oct-11 23:37:58

Lola, I feel exactly the same about my ds who has severely disordered language.
If you only understand a tiny fraction of what is said and can only express a teeny bit of what you think, how on earth could your social interaction be normal?
If you are constantly getting things wrong then of course you would prefer to do things that you know already....
ds is very social and open to change if you take language out of the equation.....

oodlesofdoodles Thu 13-Oct-11 08:57:10

Lola, what is CDC?

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 15:54:47

DS has does have a visual impairment, although not severe. He lost all sight in his right eye somewhere between the ages of 2-8 months (difficult to determine). He has had his lens in this eye replaced and his eye now works perfectly with glasses, but he suffers from amblyopia (his brain doesn't use the images from that eye).

In order to get his brain to use this weaker eye, we have to patch his stronger eye for half his waking day. Which means that after the operation when he was 10 months old, we completely took away his sight (by patching everyday).
A year later he has 50% vision in his weaker eye, which is amazing progress. However, no one mentioned that patching could have an impact and we did have our suspicions...

Now we have a dx of ASD which we all think has be exacerbated by the patching...Just wish I had been given a heads up or not been so naive...then may be I could have done something differently and reduced his difficulties.

I have not found any scientific studies on patching for amblyopia plus DS had a specific issue which is incredibly rare and not easy to find a comparison for research.

I have looked high and low to see if there is any link between delayed development and patching....then I see this, so I'm kind of shocked. I know it may not mean anything in DS particular case but can't help thinking.

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 16:00:39

Have just re-read my post, I sound like a drama queen! lol, sorry. Just been thinking about this for a long time.

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 16:05:34

Thanks oodles for the links, looks very interesting. This is exactly what my family and I have been hoping...that it could be reversible to a very high functioning degree, if his ASD behaviour is only excaberated by the patching. Hoping ABA will help with this.

wannaBe Thu 13-Oct-11 16:24:50

can I interject here slightly?

I don't have a child with ASD, but I do have a visual impairment...

I've never heard of a link between ASD and visual impairment, however, in children who are totally blind I have witnessed a high instance of certain trates, such as rocking, hand flapping etc which I suppose in ASD terms would be described as stimming?

In the VI world these behaviors are called


Although I fundamentally disagree with the reasoning behind them - i.e. that blind children lack social interaction etc etc etc - just because you can't see doesn't mean you can't interact socially, having said that, those I know who displayed such trates were also children whose parents tended to overprotect them more.

Obviously I don't have any scientific evidence to back this up, but having attended a school for the blind it is quite a common occurrence.

I suppose it's not inconceivable that with the increased understanding of ASD a link may be made at some point..

IndigoBell Thu 13-Oct-11 17:05:55

This is interesting. DS had no sight from 3 - 12 months. And he has ASD......

dolfrog Thu 13-Oct-11 17:57:59

Following some of the links to research papers mentioned above I found the following which may be of interest.
Theme Issue ?Autism: mind and brain? February 2003 and Following Gaze: Gaze-Following Behavior as a Window into Social Cognition

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 18:05:32

DS has good eye contact as we always sang to him when patched and looked at him....good eye contact is apparently atypical for ASD.

Also, I really believe the stimming started around the time we started patching, through lack of stimulation. He couldn't see (which came on very suddenly i.e. we just started patching him, he'd always been able to see before through his stronger eye), so he couldn't explore toys that much apart from with his mouth, wasn't mobile at all until 14 months.

His stims are tensing and squeezing his body and hands, plus mouthing everything, whenever excited, frustrated, wants something...anytime really he wants to communicate.

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 18:07:26

dolfrog, thanks will take a look.

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 18:09:38

Thanks wannabe.

^Causes of blindisms[3] include

The inadequacy of sensory stimulation causes the child to seek stimulation using his own body

Social deprivation due to limited interaction with other people

Limited physical and motor activity as the child cannot easily move to another place and change his environment to satisfy the basic need for movement and physical activity

Lack of ability to imitate and learn socially acceptable behaviors^

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 18:11:02

Blindisms sound very like ASD what happens if you regain your sight? has your brain already developed in an alternative way to NT, or can it change?

oodlesofdoodles Thu 13-Oct-11 20:09:07

Thank you for the links Dolfrog. I'm ploughing my way through the second one.

MangoMonster Thu 13-Oct-11 20:14:33

oodles does your dc have a visual impairment too?

oodlesofdoodles Thu 13-Oct-11 20:27:27

Mango like you I have been wondering (agonising) over whether the brain can be re-wired after early sensory deprivation. I think your DS is younger than mine, so I would say that he has a better chance. Good eye contact is a wonderful thing. My DS is making great progress with language, but eye contact and gaze following are really difficult for him. I suspect that's wired in now and he will always find it difficult.

Indigo, I've read posts of yours suggesting that your DS has made amazing progress. When did you recognise that he had ASD traits? When did you start therapies?

Like Mango's child my DS had an extremely rare disorder. He was completely paralysed for several months during the first year of his life. At this time his interaction with others was minimal (non existant). One of the papers' in Dolfrogs links talks about gaze following peaking in the second half of the first year.

In our case there was no developmental risk assessment. I'm trying to put together a complaint about it, but I know they will defend themselves and cover their backs to the last.

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