One of the many remarkable characteristics people with Autism commonly have is the enhanced ability to process visual information. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means that it impacts the way the brain develops. It can influence the way someone communicates, their social interaction and patterns of behaviour.1
Understanding how an individual with autism may be experiencing visual stimulus can give you valuable insight into how they communicate, interact and behave. It may also help identify underlying vision issues that have been masked by characteristics associated with autism and can be improved with the support of an optometrist.
More brain resources focused on visual detection
A common characteristic seen in individuals with autism is visual hypersensitivity, such as avoiding eye contact. Research has revealed that this can likely be explained by a difference in how brain resources may be allocated in people with autism compared to typically developing children and adults, focusing more resources on the perception part of the brain, and less on the areas that impact planning and the control of thought and actions.2
Remarkable visual capabilities
The perception part of the brain is associated with visual detection and identification, which results in many people with autism experiencing remarkable visual capabilities such as greater intensity of colours, increased pattern recognition and enhanced focus on the centre of an image. People that experience this can take in large amounts of information at once, with a higher attention to detail than people without autism.
Overwhelming visual stimuli
The impact of autism on vision varies depending on the individual and is correlated with the degree of their autistic symptoms. For some, vision differences may be minimal or only experienced positively, whereas for others these enhanced visual abilities may make navigating day-to-day activities feel challenging or overwhelming.
Improving quality of life
A comprehensive eye exam is an important step in identifying if there are any vision problems present. When detected early, an exam may significantly enhance the quality of life for a person with autism. While starting eye care early is ideal, it’s never too late to start and comprehensive eye exams should never be avoided. Beyond vision correcting lenses, optometrists can also offer vision therapy that may help patients functionally with things like processing visual information, organizing visual space and gaining peripheral stability. This can help patients feel more comfortable making eye contact, interacting with people, adapting to their environment and their overall ability to learn.3
FYidoctors’ optometrists understand the communication challenges patients with autism experience, and they take the time to get to know patients so the examination can be adjusted and modified according to each person’s needs. Contact your local FYidoctors to learn more or to make an appointment for an eye exam.