An investigation of optometric and orthoptic conditions in autistic adults

  • Ketan Parmar

Student thesis: Phd


Background and aims: Autistic visual sensory experiences have not been explored in detail. Research has highlighted concerns about greater refractive errors and binocular vision anomalies in autistic people. These studies have studied children, a significant proportion of whom also had a learning disability. We can only assume the visual status of autistic adults. Existing research indicates autistic people face challenges when accessing healthcare. However, we do not know the eye examination accessibility requirements of autistic adults. My project focused on autistic adults without learning disabilities, with three aims: (1) to characterise visual sensory experiences in depth, (2) to investigate optometric and orthoptic conditions, and (3) to develop resources for accessible eyecare services. Studies and methods: For aim (1), 18 autistic adults participated in focus groups, where they discussed visual experiences, associated impacts and coping strategies. For aim (2), 24 autistic adults underwent an eye examination and were dispensed treatment for any optometric, orthoptic or visual stress anomalies. For aim (3), focus groups and interviews were conducted with a total of 42 autistic adults, asking them about their eye examination experiences and how they could be bettered. Key findings: Autistic adults experience a range of visual hypersensitivities which impact personal wellbeing, daily activities and social interactions. They attempt various coping strategies to address these challenges and fear a lack of understanding from non- autistic people. Autistic adults can present with a variety of optometric and orthoptic conditions, more often than expected of a non-autistic population. Appropriate treatment can alleviate these and visual stress, reducing the need for tinted lenses. Eye examinations present difficulties for autistic people. These span from booking the appointment, to the eye tests and to the dispense of spectacles. Simple adjustments can be made to overcome these. Significance: We can understand the extent and multidimensional nature of autistic adults’ visual experiences. I have been able to advise optometrists on what they should pay attention to when seeing autistic adult patients. Finally, I have developed recommendations and resources for eyecare providers on how they can provide autism- friendly services for autistic adults. My work has fulfilled some of the current autism research priorities.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorChris Dickinson (Supervisor), Emma Gowen (Supervisor) & Catherine Porter (Supervisor)

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