Signs of Autism: PSA Provides Parents with a New Look

College of Optometrists in Vision Development Release PSA on Autism & Vision

April 1, 2013 - Lack of eye contact, staring at spinning objects or light, fleeting peripheral glances, side viewing, and difficulty attending visually are behaviors typically associated with autism.  Yet these can also be signs that there is a visual component to your child’s challenges.  This April, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is participating in Autism Awareness Month and releasing a Public Service Announcement to help educate parents on the visual component to Autism.

As COVD President, Dr. David Damari notes, “Visual problems are very common in individuals with autism. Children on the autism spectrum often have eye coordination and eye movement disorders. For example, when asked to follow an object with their eyes, they usually do not look directly at the object. Instead, they will scan or look off to the side of the object. They might also have difficulty maintaining visual attention. At least one study suggests that more than 20% of those with autism have strabismus (eye turn) and 10% have amblyopia (lazy eye). Other studies support this high incidence of functional vision problems as well.” 

Most people don’t realize our eyes are actually part of the brain. So it stands to reason that if someone has a neurological disorder that impacts the brain, their vision would be compromised in some way.  Children with ASD and other neurological disorders don’t complain verbally when their world doesn’t look right; they show us with their behavior.  When vision disorders are treated, one can see improvement in the child’s behavior and how he interacts with the world.

Here is one example of how a child’s behavior changed dramatically once the vision problem was treated.  As a pediatrician, Zach’s mother was aware of the symptoms of autism. While he had many symptoms of autism, he did not meet enough criteria for that diagnosis.  It wasn’t until she took him to a developmental optometrist that she understood how an undiagnosed vision problem could impact his quality of life.

Dr. Janna Jennings shares, “Zach begged me to bring him a loaded gun so he could shoot himself in the head … Since he started wearing the bifocals prescribed by the developmental optometrist a little over two years ago, he has never said another suicidal thing again. After a few months of vision therapy, he stopped saying he was stupid.”  While it took more than bifocals and vision therapy to help Zach fully recover, you can see the impact bifocals and vision therapy can make when there is a visual component to a child’s challenges.

To learn more about how vision disorders can impact a child with ASD or to find a developmental optometrist near you, visit COVD’s website:  www.covd.org .

“For this April’s observance of Autism Awareness month,” Damari continues, “we invite everyone to take a few minutes to view our Public Service Announcements and share them with your friends and relatives.”  The Autism and Vision PSA is airing on Insider Exclusive and can also be seen on COVD’s YouTube channel .

About COVD

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is an international, non-profit optometric membership organization that provides education, evaluation and board certification programs in behavioral and developmental vision care, vision therapy and visual rehabilitation. COVD has a series of public service announcements (PSAs) which help raise awareness that vision problems not only interfere with learning, but sports performance, and also other activities of daily living. The new PSAs also address vision problems that impact individuals who have autism spectrum disorders and those who have suffered a head injury. The organization is comprised of doctors of optometry, vision therapists and other vision specialists. For more information on learning-related vision problems, vision therapy and COVD, please visit www.covd.org or call 888.268.3770. 

CONTACT: Pamela R. Happ, CAE
COVD Executive Director
888.268.3770 tel
Email: phapp@covd.org
Website: www.covd.org

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About Us

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) www.covd.org is a non-profit, international membership association of eye care professionals including optometrists, optometry students, and vision therapists. Established in 1971, COVD provides board certification for eye doctors and vision therapists who are prepared to offer state-of-the-art services in:o Behavioral and developmental vision careo Vision therapyo Visual rehabilitationThese specialized vision care services develop and enhance visual abilities and correct many vision problems in infants, children, and adults.The COVD International Examination and Certification Board process includes a rigorous evaluation of the eye care professional's knowledge and abilities in providing developmental and behavioral vision care for patients. Optometrists who successfully complete their certification process are Board Certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy and are designated Fellows of COVD (FCOVD). Vision therapists are certified to work with COVD Fellows as Certified Optometric Vision Therapists (COVT). Associate members of COVD are practicing optometrists who have not yet completed the Fellowship process. COVD associates are required to participate in professional continuing education to enhance their knowledge and skills in behavioral vision care. Vision care provided by all COVD members is based on the principle that vision can be developed and changed. For example, we know that infants are not born with fully developed visual abilities and that good vision is developed through a learned process.

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