Subjective perceptual distortions and visual dysfunction in children with autism

J Autism Dev Disord. 2006 Feb;36(2):199-210. doi: 10.1007/s10803-005-0055-0.


Case reports and sensory inventories suggest that autism involves sensory processing anomalies. Behavioral tests indicate impaired motion and normal form perception in autism. The present study used first-person accounts to investigate perceptual anomalies and related subjective to psychophysical measures. Nine high-functioning children with autism and nine typically-developing children were given a questionnaire to assess the frequency of sensory anomalies, as well as psychophysical tests of visual perception. Results indicated that children with autism experience increased perceptual anomalies, deficits in trajectory discrimination consistent with dysfunction in the cortical dorsal pathway or in cerebellar midsagittal vermis, and high spatial frequency contrast impairments consistent with dysfunctional parvocellular processing. Subjective visual hypersensitivity was significantly related to greater deficits across vision tests.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Perceptual Disorders / diagnosis
  • Perceptual Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychophysics / methods
  • Signal Detection, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Visual Perception / physiology*