It is often a big surprise to autistics and their families alike when I discuss visual problems during a new patient visit. Since up to 95% of the ASD population has sensory processing issues, we should not assume that the brain is processing and coordinating visual information in an efficient and organized fashion. (remember, vision is one of the five senses)
Autistic teens and adults, you may not realize that you don’t see like everyone else, because whatever you are seeing has been your “normal” your entire life. You may have adapted to it, but that can be exhausting and make reading and school difficult or unpleasant. Getting this jumbled vision corrected often leads to instant and huge improvements in coordination and clumsiness, spatial awareness, depth perception, reading, and less concrete thinking, also very important for driving.
This is a poorly understood area of vision. It is not a matter of visual acuity – how crisply one sees – but how well the two eyes are working together for better depth perception and spatial awareness, two essentials that are critical for judging speed and distance, changing lanes, and parallel parking.
One mother described to me how her son kept hitting the curb and getting flat tires, as well as hitting the cars in front and behind as he parallel parked. I led him through the vision section of my office questionnaire, and immediately referred him to a developmental optometrist – on one condition. Someone else had to drive him to the appointment!
A visit to a developmental optometrist for special lenses and vision therapy may be essential for preparing to drive, and could be what has been the missing piece for you. Look for one who is a member of COVD, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. To find a doctor near you, go to covd.org. It has lots of great information about vision problems that may be holding you back from driving and a fuller life.
For more information about Vision Therapy, see my article on it here.