If your child has autism or ADHD, it's a good idea to book them in for an eye exam to check for a visual condition called convergence insufficiency. Here's all you need to know.
What Is Convergence Insufficiency and Why Is It a Problem?
Convergence insufficiency is a common but often undiagnosed vision condition that causes the eyes to drift off the point of focus. This leads to blurred or double vision and can cause a range of other symptoms, from eye strain to headaches. Like any eye problem, this condition can also have an effect on a child's day to day life. It can lead to difficulty reading and learning, accidents and falls, and even social issues due to an inability to see facial expressions.
Why Does Your Child Need Thorough Testing?
Anyone can have convergence insufficiency, but research says that the condition is more common in children with neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism. Given the effects mentioned above, it should come as no surprise that convergence insufficiency can exacerbate the symptoms of these disorders. In extreme cases, it may even be the cause of a false diagnosis of ADHD or ASD. If your child has one of these conditions, it's important that they're thoroughly tested for insufficiency. Thorough testing is needed because sometimes convergence insufficiency isn't picked up on in a routine exam as it requires three special tests to detect.
What Does Testing Entail?
The first of the three examinations is the cover test, which involves covering both eyes alternately while your child looks at a far object and a near object. The next is a near point of convergence test, which measures how close your child's eyes can get to a visual point before their vision becomes blurred. The third is a convergence amplitude test which uses a special tool called a prism bar that can help measure your child's ability to converge their eyes. Thankfully, these tests can be done in a few minutes and are suitable for non-verbal children, so even those with ADHD and autism shouldn't have a problem with them.
How Is It Treated?
There are many ways to treat convergence insufficiency. Some children benefit from reading glasses, especially if they have another vision problem alongside the condition. One of the most helpful treatments is visual therapy and eye exercises. An optometrist who specialises in visual therapy can create a tailored program for your child and show you how to help them complete it at home. It often involves a few minutes of eye focusing each day using small objects or a computer program and is easy for children of all abilities to complete.
For more information, contact an optometrist or ophthalmologist.