Eye Contact, Side Glancing and Visual Self-Stimulatory Behaviour (Stimming)

To understand why children diagnosed with autism have….

  • Trouble making eye contact
  • Repetitive behaviours like “stimming” in front of their eyes, watch shows or parts of shows or even credits in the shows over and over?
  • Symptoms like looking out of the sides of their eyes, line up toys, lay down and like closely at toys and objects?
  • Increased interest and comfort looking at the most densely pixelated visual information
  • Body movements that are like a camera lens?

…. You need to understand the energy required to support visual processing and visual motor planning.  Below is an image of a homunculus.  A homunculus is a visual representation of the energy requirements of different parts of the body.

The brain uses 40% of its energy to support visual processing.  ATP is the energy molecule in our bodies and it is made by the mitochondria.  In other sections of this website you can learn how toxins and microbes can impair mitochondrial function negatively impacting motor planning.  If we focus on the visual aspects of autism, we can see (from looking at the homunculus) that energy deficits will have a big impact on visual processing and visual motor planning.

Integration of visual information has been identified as problematic in autism.  Children with autism have significantly diminished ability to track visual information.  Tracking dynamic visual information allow the brain to create patterns and then to generalize information.  Visual integration is not possible if visual motor planning is impaired.

90% of children diagnosed with autism have methylation impairment.  Optimal methylation is needed for optimal development including the producing the myelin sheaths on nerves, like the optic nerve.  Myelin is an insulating layer that surrounds nerves that allows electrical signals to travel quickly.  Impaired methylation will result in delayed or reduced myelination of nerves decreasing the brain’s ability to process information, including visual information.  This results in impaired processing of dynamic information causing increased focus on objects instead of people whose facial muscles and micro movements become overwhelming to process.

Dr. Meg Megson, a fellow DAN (Defeat Autism Now!) doctor and faculty member for the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs,  has postulated that the visual deficits in autism are related to damaged G proteins.  Damaged G proteins will cause or contribute to the cell danger response which reduces mitochondrial functioning and impairs motor planning. Her research and clinical experience has led to using a special form of vitamin A to improve visual motor planning, which will improve eye contact, reduce visual stimming, reduce side glancing and often improve verbal communication and social interaction.  The first step in biomedical treatment of autism is to address the visual motor planning impairment by improving the body’s ability to remove harmful toxins  that can damage the G protein, and healing the cell membrane with high dose fat soluble vitamins, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, phospholipids, methylation support, carnitine and dietary intervention.

Treating visual motor planning and processing opens the door to other gains in terms of language (it helps to see someone’s mouth move when you are learning to speak), social interaction (seeing people’s facial features is crucial to appropriate social emotional responses), cognitive (most learning skills rely heavily on visual processing) and behaviour (processing the visual information surrounding you increases quality of life and reduces frustration).

Children with autism are experiencing a visual disorder and visual stimming is an attempt to repair or heal this part of the brain.  Repetition is the hallmark of therapies designed to improve motor planning, also called praxis.  Learn more about how visual motor planning and visual processing fit into the whole body view of autism spectrum disorder:

Motor planning – research

Motor planning – treatment

Fat soluble vitamins

How brains learn to see – Ted Talk