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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

autism and blindness

I have a 6 year old granddaughter who is totally blind from birth and is autistic. She does not speak and does not communicate at all. We live in New York, and I am terribly disappointed that there are no services for this combination. The ABA therapy does not work because she is blind. It is even almost impossible to get an evaluation done correctly. Does anyone know anything? I am willing to travel for an evaluation, but she needs a school in New York.
Thank you for your help.
If you know anything, please email me at

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Re: autism and blindness

Hello, I am not on the parenting bulletin board or I would have responded to this. I am a psychologist with an autism and a VI background (was a TVI in my first career). Strategies for children with significant communication and sensory impairments (e.g., deaf-blindness) can be very useful. See for articles by Robbie Blaha, Linda Hagood, Kate Moss, and Millie Smith (all of whom talk about making language tangible, meaningful, accessible). Some of my powerpoint presentations are also on the site. Re: teasing out ASD, the Gense book can be helpful tho is not research based. I have traveled to do evaluations but I am just one person (in New England). I am happy to consult to evaluation teams if that is needed. Respectfully,
Terese Pawletko Ph.D.

Re: autism and blindness

This is a terribly difficult area to find help. I am the author of the "Raising a Child Who is Blind and..." blog on this site, and have an 8 yr old who is also blind and autistic. First, I recommend the book, "Autism Spectrum Disorders and Visual Impairment" by Gense and Gense. It really is the only book I've found published that addresses this area. There are organizations in CA that are developing an Autism assessment for kids with visual impairments, but it hasn't been completed yet. Basically, you need an "eval" team that has diagnosed a VI kid...OR have your child's teacher of the visually impaired (teacher of blind students) be part of the eval to determine that appropriate techniques are used. The book is good because it has great timelines for milestones for children with and without visual impiarments...which can decipher if their deficits are due to their visual impairment (alone) or ... something else. I'm on the west-side of the country, and suffered through the same problem finding services and am still struggling. Also, an assessment had to be pushed for by me. Feel free to e-mail me directly if you need me to clarify

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