Variety of need

There are many different characteristics and needs among children who are diagnosed as having visual impairment and autism. These characteristics may relate to the:

  • Nature, age of onset, degree and type of visual impairment
  • Presence of additional needs arising from learning difficulties, hearing impairments, medical conditions and physical disability
  • Nature and severity of the autism 

The website of the National Autistic Society provides more details of this.


Some children who have a severe visual impairment display characteristics that are sometimes associated with autism. These may include behaviour such as rocking, eating a restricted range of foods, or the use of certain often repeated speech patterns. However, these features alone are not indicative of autism.

It is very important that a diagnosis of autism is only made by a qualified medical practitioner or psychologist to avoid a misleading label being attached to a child.

Resource providing an overview of useful approaches

Children who have both a severe visual impairment and autism require specialist intervention, especially as many of the approaches used with sighted people with autism rely heavily on vision. The work of the RNIB Visual Impairment and Autism Project between 2008 and 2011 resulted in an online resource which identifies many of the approaches which have been used with children with this combination of needs in educational settings.

Many of these approaches are also of relevance to the home situation or to care settings.

Vision testing for those with autism

It is very important that children with autism have their eyes tested regularly. It may need some careful planning to ensure it is not distressing for the child. Visit our eye tests section for more information.