Eye care for children with autism

One in 59 children is estimated to have autism spectrum disorder by the age of eight, according to the CDC. People with ASD are neuro-divergent, meaning that their style of social interaction, communication, development, and learning may differ significantly from their peers. Children on the spectrum can benefit greatly from developmental eye care.

Eye care for children with autism in Olympia

Numerous studies demonstrate that neuro-diverse children, and children on the spectrum specifically have a higher incidence of developmental vision problems such as strabismus, convergence, accommodation, stereopsis, and oculomotor function. It is therefore extremely important to schedule a developmental eye exam to assess the full scope of visual processes. 

Early detection and treatment of visual deficits in children with autism improves their educational and occupational opportunities.

Are you looking for an optometrist near you who is sensitive and knowledgeable about helping the neuro-diverse community? We welcome you to schedule a developmental eye exam at American Family Vision Clinic. Our optometrists have extensive experience, the latest technology, advanced treatments, and a neuro-diverse friendly approach to provide advanced care to patients with ASD, Downs, Cerebral Palsy, Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, and all members of the neuro-diverse community. Parents visit us from Olympia and the surrounding communities. To schedule a developmental eye exam call us at (360) 491-2121 or Book an Appointment .

This article was originally written by Dr. Carl Garbus of Amplify EyeCare Santa Clarita and published by the American Optometric Association.

American Family Vision Clinic

Why do children with autism need optometric care from an eyecare professional?

There is so much that eye doctors can do to help children with developmental disabilities. Eye doctors can play an important role in exposing and presenting this information to parents, as many don't realize that a child with learning problems needs a visual examination.

Approximately 70% to 80% of what we learn is through our visual system. If a child is having difficulty learning, there may be a visual disconnect or a poor integration with auditory and vestibular systems. Through proper vision therapy, visual, auditory, and vestibular systems work together more efficiently, and this facilitates learning. Occupational therapy and optometric vision rehabilitation can improve the functioning of autistic children significantly. The therapy program emphasizes multi-sensory stimulation.

Sensory overload can be a challenge for children on the autism spectrum as well as doctors of optometry. They must be taken care of at an optometry practice.

How do we provide eye care for children with autism at American Family Vision Clinic?

Start by earning the patient's trust

Children with autism are afraid of doctors and do not want to go to them. Therefore, you should bring toys, books, games, whatever your child enjoys, to the evaluation. The exam room is child-friendly, with a variety of toys and videos to occupy and soothe children. It provides our eye doctor with an opportunity to observe their behavior as they play with whatever object they are interested in.

Ensure that the evaluation is conducted in a relaxed environment

Such children may be sensitive to bright light and other things. Therefore, we do not do our evaluation in a hurry. We take time to understand the child's needs and make appropriate modifications to meet them.

What tests are important in an eye exam for children with autism?

  • Lang Stereo Test
  • Child fixation targets that flash, make sounds and move 
  • The Hirschberg test
  • The Bruckner test
  • Use skiascopy bars to perform retinoscopy

Learn more about the patient's history

We try to learn about the patient's history. By sending a questionnaire to the parents early, we try to obtain the necessary information before the appointment. Because parents are the ones who spend the most time with their child. In that questionnaire, parents are asked to fill out an extensive symptoms checklist. Below are some examples of questions that could be included in the questionnaire:

  • What does your child eat throughout the day?
  • Do they have a special diet?
  • Do they suffer from light sensitivity? 
  • Do they squint while reading?

Collaborate with other health care providers

We also inquire about the child’s pediatrician and what types of treatments the child is currently receiving. We also collaborate with other health care providers, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists, in order to better understand the child's behavior and provide better care.

What are some symptoms that a child with autism may experience?

What are some symptoms that a child with autism may experience?

  • A child with autism may have limited interests, making it difficult to engage them in some learning activities.
  • Developmental delays are also common among children with autism. A delay can interfere with memory, communication, coordination, logic, and the ability to perform simple tasks independently.
  • Autism can also lead to problems with language development and speech delays, which is one of the first signs of autism.
  • It is common for children with autism to lack focus and find it difficult to concentrate at school.
  • They may have difficulty communicating non-verbally and therefore, struggle with making eye contact, expressing facial expressions, using body language, moving and touching.

Common Questions

It may be helpful to prepare the child for the eye exam in advance by explaining the process and letting them know what to expect. Using visual supports, such as pictures or videos, may also be helpful in preparing the child for the exam. If your child is on the spectrum and is experiencing vision problems or displaying signs that there may be an undiagnosed vision issue, call us to schedule an evaluation today at (360) 491-2121. We are proud to be a leading provider of advanced eye care for neuro diverse patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.
Autism can affect vision and eye health in a number of ways. Some individuals with ASD may experience vision problems, including difficulty with eye tracking, eye teaming, and visual processing. They may also be sensitive to light or glare, or have difficulty with visual perception. It is important for individuals with ASD to receive regular eye exams to ensure that any vision problems are identified and treated as necessary. If your child has autism and is experiencing vision problems, call us to schedule an evaluation today at (360) 491-2121. We are proud to be a leading provider of advanced eye care conveniently located in Olympia.
Eye care for children with autism
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

Looking for an eye doctor near you for a child with Autism?

Many parents are not aware that children with autism suffer from learning problems and need a developmental eye exam with our eye doctor. About 70-80% of what we learn is through our vision. Problems with their vision will affect their ability to read and comprehend. Through vision therapy, it is possible to improve the learning of children with special needs. To schedule a developmental eye exam for your child, please call (360) 491-2121. Patients with developmental vision issues visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of pediatric and developmental vision services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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