Information ABout the Role of Optometry in Early Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Leonard J. Press, O.D, FCOVD, FAAO

Research has shown conclusively that the earlier autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are identified, the better the ultimate outcome will be for a child's overall development. While early intervention services involving occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy are increasingly common prior to age three, comparatively little attention is paid to visual development.

 

With this in mind, I and a colleague (Dr. Jack Richman) realized that the ASD field was overlooking a potentially valuable resource. The absence of eye contact, unresponsiveness to facial gestures, and/or difficulty in sharing joint attention are signs of abnormal or atypical visual development.

 

Optometrists are among the first professionals to assess an infant or toddler. Dr. Richman pioneered the use of one of the standard tests for infant looking patterns, a face dot test. Elsewhere, in a textbook I co-authored on Pediatric Optometry, I reviewed the significance of the looking patterns of young children.

 

Dr. Richman and I put this information together to demonstrate how this potentially places Optometry in the vanguard of identifying infants and young children at risk for developing ASD characteristics. This is a very exciting development, and helps integrate our work into the mainstream of approaches to identifying and helping children with ASD.

 

The full article detailing the importance of involving Optometry in early intervention assessment and services is now available for download on this website:

Press LJ, Richman JE.

The Role of Optometry in Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Optometry & Vision Development. 2009; 40(3):141-149.