food

Adelaide eye clinic specialises in treating children with autism.

By Alina Eacott

Ned was well prepared before he arrived at the clinic for his eye test.

A new Adelaide eye clinic is dedicated to treating people with autism and making them feel comfortable with the examination experience.

Adelaide mother Jane Burford said simple tasks such as going for an eye test could prove overwhelming for children such as her eight-year-old son Ned.

"Often when I take Ned to places we have to prepare and tell him ahead of time where we're going so he doesn't get anxious about it," she said.

The clinic, at Flinders University in Adelaide's southern suburbs, is carefully designed to cater for such needs.

"They actually send you a video so you can take a virtual tour of the place," Ms Burford explained.

"I showed him that and by the time we got here he was very comfortable."

Optometrist Peter Constable said eye issues were common in children with autism but went undiagnosed in up to 40 per cent of cases.

"Parents are often very occupied — particularly when [children] are diagnosed at the age of three to five — with worrying about social skills, language development, communication, feeding and so forth, but often the eyes get overlooked to hearing and speech and language difficulties," he said.

Vision correction 'very emotional' for child

Dr Constable said correcting an autistic child's vision could be life-changing for them.

"Once their vision's corrected often you get a little smile on their face and sparkle in their eye again when they can actually start to see things clearly and that's often very emotional for the child and for the parents," he said.

"It's difficult enough for people with autism spectrum disorder to make sense of the world and develop the skills they need to communicate without the added complication of not being able to see properly, or even to be able to tell anyone that you can't."

The clinic's resources include a visual timetable explaining how the appointment will work, and Dr Constable uses a high-tech auto-refractor to be able to test someone's eyes without having to get too close to them, or ask too many questions.

"Our waiting room, staff and consulting rooms are autism friendly, with toys that are very tactile and with order and visual cues so that children have their own space and feel a sense of belonging," he said.

The inspiration for the new clinic was born of Dr Constable's personal experience.

"My child has autism and, as an optometrist, I really didn't know where to go when he was diagnosed," he said.

"A lot of the issues I faced I think a lot of other parents would face."

Consultations at the clinic are fully covered by Medicare.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

 © 2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here

00:00 / ???