Autism Takes Center Stage At AAO

It was a momentous occasion yesterday when Ricki Robinson, MD, MPH ascended the podium to deliver the opening portion of the plenary session at the American Academy of Optometry.  Dr. Robinson is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine, and the session was entitled: Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Practice: Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The packed house as this session, originally conceived by Bernard Dolan, O.D., signaled that the American Academy of Optometry was now at the vanguard of this very important clinical topic.  As is often the case, there are personal stories behind the public face of moments such as these.  In his introduction to Dr. Robinson’s presentation, Dr. Dolan related how he was moved by his daughter’s professional experiences in helping individuals on the Spectrum, and bringing this topic center stage to the Academy became a personal mission.

I was privileged to be among a small group that was invited to meet with Dr. Robinson prior to her presentation, and her interest in increasing awareness of optometric contributions to this field was evident.  Drs. Stacey Coulter and Regina Garriott were instrumental in putting together not only the plenary session, but a CE Symposium by the Section on Binocular Perception & Pediatric Optometry that dovetailed with the session. Dr. Robinson was on the panel of the Symposium and her topic was Visual-Spatial Processing in Patients with ASD: Clinical Observations.  Though she didn’t have the time to elaborate her model of visual-spatial processing, you can view a power point of a similar presentation she gave in the context of anxiety here.

It was clear that Dr. Robinson’s view of vision has been heavily influenced by Harry Wachs, O.D., and his approach to visual spatial thinking which is detailed here.  Dr. Robinson has been intimately involved in the creation of a professional network geared toward individuals with disabilities called Profectum, and one of its key members is Serena Wieder.  Ms. Wieder and Dr. Wachs have just completed a book, Hidden in Plain Sight: Visual Spatial Challenges in Autism and Learning Difficulties.

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