Reader request: toddlers with autism, sensory issues, and glasses

There was a question posted on the Little Four Eyes facebook page from a mother with a 2 year old with autism who needs glasses, and she’s struggling to help him adjust to the glasses.

He is just farsighted and I feel I need to get him to wear glasses. I worry how much he is missing out on (eye contact, recognizing people, pictures, etc). The problem is, he won’t even wear sunglasses or a hat. We have had issues with putting his shirt over his head. I think this relates to sensory issues and I have a feeling that the weight of the glasses is too strange. I can’t keep his glasses (or hat) on for more than a second (if that). I don’t know how to get him to keep them on. Most of the time I can’t get them on. His hands are up and now he’s starting to cry if he sees them. We can’t to stay positive, get excited if they are on and practice with cheap glasses since the others will be destroyed before ever worn! I am sure this is somewhat normal, but I don’t see anyone discussing this or at least not like what I am describing. When others say their child doesn’t like glasses. What does that mean? They take them off? Most advice is for children that can be reasoned with at some level. It’s questionable how much my child understands. Characters, discussion is not going to work. He wouldn’t understand. Think baby in toddler body. He is nonverbal, so I don’t know what he doesn’t like. It’s all guessing. I really need him to wear these things. I will con’t to work w/ therapists to assist in this process. If there is any info out there on this specific topic. I would love to see it. Thanks 🙂

One of my favorite things about this community is how willing others are to offer encouragement and advice when they’ve been through similar situations.  I forwarded this question on to Dina, whose  son is diagnosed on the autism spectrum and is legally blind.  She has written about her son here, and also blogs at Frazzled Working Mom.  She had the following advice, which I’m posting here for anyone else that might be facing this:

Autism and visual impairment are two separate disabilities and generally treated quite separately. My recommendation to her is that she treat him for sensory integration disorder, which will help reduce the sensory sensitivity; a good Occupational Therapist will incorporate teaching him to tolerate his glasses into the therapy, and his Early Intervention team should make “keeping glasses on” as a goal. Naturally, I faced this problem but it got easier as my son got older and he realized the benefit from wearing the glasses.

If anyone else has information, advice or encouragement, please leave it here.

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4 responses to “Reader request: toddlers with autism, sensory issues, and glasses

  1. Hi. My daughter, Z, isn’t on the autism spectrum, but she does have cortical visual impairment, which shares some behaviors/characteristics with autism (and sensory integration issues, too). Z’s glasses were first prescribed when she was about 1, and she is now 4. I will tell you that although she is much more tolerant now than she was initially, she still has periods or days or moods when she just will not put up with those glasses. So I feel your pain!

    A few things that we have noticed that have helped with this problem:
    – We try to be sensitive to when she is the most sensitive – when she is most resistant to the glasses is when she is very tired or is experiencing sensory overload (for example, if we try to put them on when her brother is jumping around the room like crazy, then it’s a lost cause!). So we give her a “pass” at those times, and wait until she is a little more tolerant.

    – At first, we were happy with just a few minutes of glasses at a time. Take it slowly. We would do things like: “After we wear our glasses for 5 minutes we are going to get a big snuggle! (or treat or whatever)” Somehow, she seemed to rise to those challenges, and her tolerance time gradually grew.

    – We noticed that at different times she preferred different glasses (her first prescription we got 2 pair – an expensive one and a cheapie – and with her second prescription we got 3 pair). We let her choose which ones (if we can find them!). I don’t think it is just a fickle preference – I truly think that because each one is shaped, colored and fit differently, she does feel a difference.

    I hope these ideas help.

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  2. perhaps you should check out solobambini glasses. They are indestructible and have a head strap. It may be more difficult for him to remove them. You can call the owner, Roger, and order directly from him as long as you know the prescription and pd. I believe their website is solobambini.com.

    I was a behavior therapist for kids with autism before staying home with the kids. If you have a therapist working with you guys, see if you can work in some glasses training with your program. If not, try starting your own program with very small goals of keeping glasses on for seconds at a time followed by praise or something else reinforcing like a light up toy or bubbles. It would look like this: put glasses on child, have another person next to you to blow the bubbles immediately (or turn on light up toy or something else he likes). After a while, you can try delaying the reinforcement by 1 second, then increase the time as he is successful. You may also try putting the glasses on while he is watching tv or a movie.

    Another type of frames to look into are made by Swiss flex and called t2s. They are extremely light weight and hold up to abuse. The marketing for it claims that you can barely feel them on your face. The downside about these frames is that they are expensive and you have to buy from a distributer which may be hard to find one depending on your location.

    From my guess, any glasses that are metal with those nose pads are probably really uncomfortable for him and feel strange on his face.

    Best of luck to you guys!

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  3. My son is on the autism spectrum and has worn glasses now for 2+ years. In the beginning, we couldn’t keep the glasses on his head. He would wear them and then take them off and leave them everyplace.

    It was really tough, (and expensive) with all the broken and missing glasses. Flex-On frames are a must for him!!!!

    A head strap was a must. We found that the Chums cotton strap worked well and didn’t set off his sensory issues as much. He now uses a padded strap that I got from Camille at framehuggers and tolerates that well.

    One thing that I did was pick an activity that he liked doing (computer) and had him do it only when he wore his glasses. He associated the glasses with a positive reinforcer. I had the behaviorist help me with this also at school and we gradually increased it.

    Now, he seeks out his glasses and will ask for them when before he would just squint. He also doesn’t just take them off and leave them places as much. We started out with a shoe box and made that his “glasses spot” for where he could put his glasses when not in use. Then, when moved the shoe box to the top of his sidetable next to his bunk bed (down at the lower level) and then we took the box away and had him start to just leave them on the table there before climbing up into his bunk. He takes them off last thing and then puts them on first thing. He will very rarely take them off when he is getting tired and leave them wherever – but very rarely.

    Good luck and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me!!

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