Today I examined a 9 year old boy with autism. He had been examined 2 years ago and glasses were prescribed for full-time wear. But his parents never had the glasses made. They sought a second opinion and were told he only needed the glasses for reading. Mom would often read with him and never noticed any difficulties and so decided that he probably didn’t need the glasses at all. Now, two years later, his teacher called home because he was having difficulty seeing anything written on the board unless he walked to the front of the classroom. So mom brought him back.
This child is VERY hyperopic and astigmatic. Without lenses, his visual acuity at both distance and near is significantly reduced. He also has an exotropia (his eye is turned outward) which is much worse when he does not have appropriate lenses. When I put the lenses on, his vision improved. But he is amblyopic. Because he has always had blurry vision, he has not developed the ability to see the smaller letters or use his vision effectively. I expect his vision to improve as he wears the lenses.
I wanted to laugh and cry. I was happy that I will have a positive impact on this young child’s vision and his life! He will be able to participate much more actively in all his activities. His autism surely poses other difficulties in his daily life and I am thrilled to eliminate (or at least mitigate) any visual deficiencies. I am giving him a chance to interact with his world in a much more meaningful way. But 2 years lost……… what if he had received those glasses 2 years ago? What opportunities to learn and grow have been lost because he could not see?
It takes two. I can do my part but I need help! I need parents too. I need parents to bring their children in for comprehensive eye examinations. I need parents to ask questions if they don’t understand. I need parents to comply with treatment plans (even if their children are not happy), I need them to return for follow-up care.
Parents, please help me help your child. Schedule that exam. Make sure your child wears the glasses in school. Call me if you have questions or concerns. Together we can accomplish so much, but I can’t do it alone.