We welcome April with open arms, for not only is it one month closer to warmth (finally), but it’s also Autism Awareness Month. Many of you have children who are blind or visually impaired who have been diagnosed with autism, and many others have children who are blind or visually impaired whom you question if have autism. This month—and truthfully, every month—we celebrate these children.
As you likely already know, children who are born blind or significantly visually impaired often share some attributes with children who have autism. Consider the following:
- Self-stimulating behavior such as rocking, nail biting, eye pressing, or picking
- Avoiding eye contact/inability to hold eye contact
- Sensory seeking/avoiding
- Difficulty engaging socially
- Echolalia, or repeating what was heard
These attributes do not represent every child who is blind or every child who has autism, but they are commonly found in both groups of children, often manifesting for different reasons.
Does My Child Have Autism?
If your son or daughter who is blind or visually impaired has many of these overlapping attributes and any delayed communication development, it can be challenging to determine if he or she is on the autism spectrum.
I encourage you to not fixate on whether or not the label fits but on seeking interventions that support your child’s current and future independence and community involvement.
After wrestling with the appropriateness of an autism diagnosis for her son, Eddie, Emily Coleman recognized with a pediatrician’s help that Eddie would benefit from interventions available to children who have autism, regardless of if the diagnosis fit. Read how she embraced Eddie’s diagnosis of autism in addition to his diagnosis of a visual impairment in the blog post, "Autism Awareness Month: The Child Versus the Label."
If you would like to speak with other families who have a child with blindness and autism, or a possible diagnosis of autism, learn about a telesupport group available to you in the blog post, "Children with Autism and Blindness: Misunderstood, Mislabeled, and Misdiagnosed."
Let’s celebrate and support our children!