Vision Problems and Special Needs Children

The doctors and vision therapists at the Vision & Conceptual Development Center have extensive experience working with children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, sensory integration disorder, and other conditions. Roughly 40% of our patient population has some type of special issue. Dr. Green is an Intermediate Level Provider of Floortime/DIR autism therapy, certified through the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders. She is also a member of Profectum Foundation, an interdisciplinary organization for helping those with special needs.

Children with special needs have the same vision problems as neuro-typical children, but with higher incidences. (Eye and Vision Assessment of Children with Special Needs in an Interdisciplinary School Setting) These disorders may include, nearsightedness or farsightedness, as well as other eye-coordination disorders such as eye turns (strabismus); eye movement dysfunction, “lazy eye” (amblyopia); or poor eye teaming and coordination, causing the child to have a distorted sense of what he is viewing. Depth perception and other visual information-processing problems are also common.

Vision problems of this nature can add to your child’s challenges.

A hidden visual dysfunction may be affecting the child’s behavior, interfering with his ability to read and learn, and reducing his ability to perform routine tasks.


Vision and Autism

Many people on the autism spectrum have vision problems beyond the common nearsightedness and farsightedness. Strabismus (eye turn) and amblyopia (lazy eye) are more commonly found in autistic individuals than in the general population. Recent research has also shown that difficulty with saccades, the quick point-to-point eye movements used in reading, is a hallmark of autism. Even relatives of autistic persons can demonstrate these motor abnormalities.

Other vision problems common with autism include difficulty tracking, integrating peripheral with central vision, visual stimming, and lack of eye contact.

The good new is that we can help! Eye movements disorders, strabismus, amblyopia and other vision problems can be remediated with vision therapy. Our doctors and vision therapists have extensive experience working with patients on the autism spectrum and are experts in developing vision therapy programs that cater to the patient's specific abilities and needs.

More information on Autism and Vision can be found at


The Eye and Vision Examination for the Autistic or Special Needs Patient

Dr. Zeller and Dr. Green are experts in evaluating the visual systems of special patients. Both are able to modify the traditional "which is better, 1 or 2?" examination to gather information by observation and other methods. Often the exam takes place in our Movement Room while the child bounces on a therapy ball. We are very flexible in providing accommodations for all of our patients.

We know that often a new environment, with new people and activities can be overwhelming. To help comfort those children who need it, we offer a "Social Story" to help them get acquainted with our office ahead of time. Please ask Canden, Patient Care Coordinator, for the Social Story when you make your initial appointment.



Vision Problems Often Get Overlooked

Often, the Special Needs child is unable to sit still for a normal eye exam, which can result in an inaccurate or incomplete evaluation. The child may have an intermittent (occasional), rather than a constant eye turn that could go undetected. 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.

You are never too young or too old for vision therapy. If you are finding that either you or your little one is having vision problems, the best thing to do is to call the Vision & Conceptual Development Center (VCDC) for a vision evaluation.

Like many skills, visual skills are developed. They can generally be improved through proper therapy techniques. Vision therapy enhances vision by coordinating and improving eye movement, focusing ability and eye-hand coordination. Each patient is guided through new visual experiences by a specialized vision therapist and learns new ways to perceive and interact with the visual world.



Effective therapies attract patients from afar

VCDC offers a broad array of vision therapies geared toward children and adults. Each patient receives his or her own individualized, custom-made program. This is developed by the VCDC optometrist and provided one-to-one to the patient by the VCDC vision therapist. They help patients develop the visual skills necessary for success in life. That’s why people come to them from all over the world as well as from throughout the Washington, DC area.



Helping adults & children overcome strabismus & amblyopia

Strabismus (eye turn) is a condition in which the person cannot properly align his or her eyes under normal viewing conditions. It affects about 4% of the population. There are many different types of eye turns and as a result there are many different treatment approaches. Untreated strabismus can cause headaches, poor depth perception, double vision, amblyopia and other problems.

Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is a condition in which one or both eyes have reduced vision, not caused by injury or disease, that cannot be improved by corrective lenses. Amblyopia occurs in approximately 3% of the population and is most frequently caused by significant differences in refractive error (eyeglass prescription) between the two eyes or by constant unilateral strabismus. Amblyopia can be detected at an early age and can be overcome with vision therapy, glasses and/or eye-patching. Unfortunately, some children grow up without getting any treatment and carry these vision problems into adulthood. The good news is that these problems can be corrected in adulthood, too.

Instead of living with your symptoms or your child’s, get the experienced, trusted, effective care you need. Call the Vision & Conceptual Development Center at 301.951.0320 and ask for help. It just might be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself or your family.

The Vision & Conceptual Development Center offers specialized treatment and care solutions for visual challenges in both children and adults. Call our office today at 301.951.0320 or fill out our online Request an Appointment form to schedule your appointment.