Characteristics of visual function in Asperger’s syndrome and the autism spectrum

  • Amy Whiskens

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger’s syndrome is part of the spectrum of autism disorders. This thesis aims to: • Review and investigate current theories concerning visual function in individuals with Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism spectrum disorder and to translate the findings into clinical practice by developing a specific protocol for the eye examination of individuals of this population. • Investigate whether those with Asperger’s syndrome are more likely to suffer from Meares-Irlen syndrome and/or dyslexia. • Assess the integrity of the M-cell pathway in Asperger’s syndrome using perimetric tests available in optometric practice to investigate and also to describe the nature of any defects. • Evaluate eye movement strategies in Asperger’s whilst viewing both text and images. Also to evaluate the most appropriate methodology for investigating eye movements; namely optical digital eye tracking and electrophysiology methodologies. Findings of the investigations include • Eye examinations for individuals with Asperger’s syndrome should contain the same testing methods as for the general population, with special consideration for clear communication. • There is a depression of M-pathway visual field sensitivity in 57% (8/14) of people with Asperger’s syndrome, supporting previous evidence for an M-cell deficit in some individuals. • There is a raised prevalence of dyslexia in Asperger’s syndrome (26% of a sample of 31) but not necessarily of Meares-Irlen syndrome. • Gaze strategies are abnormal in Asperger’s syndrome, for both reading and viewing of images. With increased saccadic movement and decreased viewing of faces in comparison to background detail.
Date of Award24 May 2010
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRobert P Cubbidge (Supervisor), Sarah L Hosking (Supervisor) & Stefano Seri (Supervisor)


  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Autism
  • eye movements
  • Meares-Irlen
  • syndrome
  • Magnocellular pathway

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