Vision and Children with Special Needs

Vision Therapy for AutismMany children struggle with multiple challenges, that can make school and life achievements seem almost impossible to conquer. Working with professionals however, that are both familiar and comfortable addressing the requirements of a special needs child can be invaluable in helping families help their children to achieve at their potential.

Identifying and resolving vision problems in children with special needs, oftentimes will result in achievements that families sometimes would never have thought they could attain. Early identification and treatment is crucial, as it will remove a major roadblock, and will allow these children to gain more from their academic environment.

In our office, we have extensive experience in evaluating children with various challenges such as autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, head trauma, learning disabilities, developmental delays, emotional disorders and significant medical illnesses. We also provide one-on-one individualized vision therapy programs to meet the needs of all the children we see.

It is important to recognize that ANY child can have a vision problem, whether they have special needs or not. In addition, resolving these vision problems can make all the difference, with respect to attaining and achieving at higher levels both at school and at home. The difference here, is that sometimes families of children with special needs attribute certain signs or symptoms to one of the aforementioned disorders, rather than  to an undiagnosed vision problem!

Sometimes children with special needs may demonstrate certain behaviors which could easily be mistaken as part of their syndrome or specific diagnosis; when in fact, many of these behaviors are due to an underlying vision problem.

If you have a child with special needs it is essential to review the signs and symptoms to see if a developmental vision evaluation is indicated.

Vision Problems Often Get Overlooked

Remember, the eye chart exam measures what the child can see at 20 feet away, but will miss how he sees things up close, such as words in a book. And, unfortunately, children don’t know how they are supposed to see, so they rarely complain, leaving certain problems hidden.

Most people don’t realize that our eyes are actually part of the brain.  So it stands to reason that if someone has a neurological disorder that impacts the brain, that their vision would be compromised in some way.  Being able to see things clearly from a distance of 20 feet (i.e., “20/20”) is just one of over 15 visual skills required to read, learn and function in life.

In fact, 35 areas of the brain are primarily or totally involved with the processing of visual information.  At least 305 intra-cortical pathways link the 35 areas; and, 70% of the sensory information that goes to the brain is visual.

While 1 out of 4 normal children struggle with reading and learning because of undiagnosed vision problems, research is showing that a significantly higher percentage of children with special needs have vision problems which, when corrected, can make a huge difference in their lives.

Signs and Symptoms of a Vision Problem in Special Needs Children

  • Skips/repeats lines when reading
  • Omits small words when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Homework takes longer than it should
  • Reduced visual attention
  • Trouble keeping attention on reading
  • Difficulty completing assignments on time
  • Difficulty copying from board
  • Tilts head/closes one eye when reading
  • One eye turns in or out
  • Avoids near work/reading
  • Unable to listen and look at same time
  • Holds reading material too close
  • Poor handwriting
  • Clumsy/knocks things over
  • Car/motion sickness
  • Unusual neck and body postures
  • Visual perceptual problems
  • Uncontrolled eye shaking (Nystagmus)

If your child displays any of these symptoms, an undetected, underlying but treatable vision problem may be contributing to the problem.

Vision Therapy

Vision Therapy can often help children with special needs interact better with their environment.  As a result they often have less temper tantrums because they have a better understanding of their surroundings and therefore better communication. 

Continue Reading... What Is Vision Therapy? >>


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