Helping Children with Autism Focus on the World Around Them

For parents of children with Autism, it is a never ending quest to sort through all the different therapies that are available to help improve quality of life for those on the spectrum.
“I was always told my son, Cass (who was diagnosed with high functioning Autism in January 2014 when he was 9 years old) could see 20/20, so I didn’t even think that his vision could be contributing to his reading problems,” Penelope Massagee of Charleston, SC, shares; “You can imagine my surprise when I found out he was seeing double and that words looked like they were moving on the page. He must have thought it was normal, because he never complained!”
It is a common misconception that 20/20 means one has perfect vision. The term 20/20 was actually developed in the 1800’s and only means one can see a certain size of letter from 20 feet. There are a variety of other visual skills required for academic success and functioning in life including eye coordination and eye tracking problems.
For many children on the Autism Spectrum a program of optometric vision therapy can help them learn the necessary visual skills for reading and functioning in life.
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Learning Disability Awareness Month

Inadequate Vision Screenings Contributing to Epidemic of Children with Learning Problems

Only two years after The Nation’s Report Card showed that only 38% of students could read at or above the level of “proficient,” our nation’s children continue to struggle with reading – at epidemic levels.  Many parents are told their children aren’t far enough behind to warrant special services at school, yet they continue to struggle with reading and learning.  Other children are misdiagnosed with learning disabilities when in fact they have undiagnosed vision problems at the root of their struggles.

“In June 2011, we featured a story about educators in New Jersey who routinely screen for learning-related vision problems. Their district had one of the lowest rates of student classification for special education services in their county,” states Dr. Kara Heying, President of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD). “In addition, parents shared that optometric vision therapy was one of the interventions that makes a big difference in their children’s ability to read and learn.”

It is a logical assumption that checking hearing and vision would be one of the first steps to identify why a child is struggling with reading. While eyesight, or visual acuity, is typically assessed, the main test is whether a child can see certain-sized letters from a distance of 20 feet (hence the term “20/20”). However, reading occurs at approximately 6 to 15 inches. People mistakenly assume that, if distance vision is fine, then vision at reading distance will be as well. This unfortunately means that vision isn’t tested at reading distance, nor are eye coordination and focusing taken into account.

Optometric research has shown that more than 10 million children struggle with reading and learning because of eye coordination and eye focusing disorders. Research also clearly indicates that both of these disorders are very treatable with optometric vision therapy. “While there is no critical period or age limit for vision therapy, early identification is always recommended,” states Dr. Heying.

“Most children who are having trouble with reading after working on it for four, or five, or six years are not easy to fix. They believe they are just stupid or just can’t do it. Why? Almost never are they stupid,” shares Katie Johnson, author of Red Flags for Elementary Teachers. Ms. Johnson has taught first grade, in both Maine and Washington, for 37 of the 46 years she has been a teacher. In addition, she has worked as an adjunct professor of literacy in the teacher-training programs of Pacific Oaks College (California) and University of Washington (Bothell campus), as well as in the graduate school of Lesley University (Cambridge, Massachusetts), and has done a multitude of professional development presentations all over the United States.

ADHD and Screen Time

Screen use is an epidemic causing a rise in nearsightedness in both children and adults. Patients with ADHD have a harder time managing the time spent on devices which in turn leads to visual symptoms corrected only by glasses. Outdoor activity can reduce the chances of developing eye problems. Take a look at the flyer below for more tips to help reduce the use of electronic devices. Provided by the Understood Team at understood.org

Scoring Better on the SATs

Is your child not doing well on standardized testing? It may not be their fault – a new study was released explaining that your child may be scoring lower because of difficulty answering a multiple choice bubble sheet.
In this study, the time taken to complete a multiple-choice answer form by children with amblyopia and strabismus was assessed to determine their fine-motor skills. A total of 47 children with amblyopic strabismus, anisometropia, or both, 18 children with non-amblyopic strabismus, and 20 normal controls were enrolled between May 2014 and November 2017. Compared with the control group, children with amblyopia and strabismus took significantly longer transferring provided correct answers to the multiple-choice form.
The authors attributed this to fine-motor deficits and stressed that performance on standardized tests could be affected.
The good news is that both conditions can be diagnosed and treated at all ages from an infant to senior adults by Vision Therapy.
Dr. Marran, a developmental optometrist, specializes in diagnosing and treating vision problems beyond just needing glasses. She screens for these problems in a standard vision exam for which all children are covered by some form of insurance. Give our office a call so we can schedule your child for a comprehensive eye exam. School screenings do not screen for these problems and often even miss the need for glasses. Call (714) 961-2020 or visit our website at yloptometry.com to set an appointment and get more information.