Autism spectrum disorder more common among children with vision impairment and hearing loss

By Kim Van Naarden Braun, PhD
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

There are limited population-based data* on the co-occurrence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children with vision impairment (VI) and/or hearing loss (HL).
*Population-based data means that information is collected on as many children as possible within the general population rather than a smaller sample of children within that same population.

What did you do in your research?
To understand more about children with VI and/or HL who also have ASD, we analyzed data from the Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (MADDSP) from 2000-2008. MADDSP is an ongoing tracking system that estimates the number and characteristics of children with selected developmental disabilities in metro Atlanta.

What did you find out?
The study found that ASD was more common among children who also had VI or HL than among children in metro Atlanta overall.  

    What are the take-home messages?
    More needs to be done to ensure that all children with ASD are identified as early as possible so that they can get the help they need. In particular, this study highlights the need for:
      This study also found that certain factors, such as being born too early, may increase the chance of a child having both ASD and either VI or HL. These findings could help guide future research into shared risk factors and causes of these conditions.

      To learn more about these findings contact Kim Van Naarden Braun or visit Project Website.

      Full Journal Article
      Kancherla, V., Van Naarden Braun, K., & Yeargin-Allsopp (2013). Childhood vision impairment, hearing loss and co-occurring autism spectrum disorder. Disability and Health Journal, 6(4), 333-342.

      CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program has resources for healthcare providers, including screening tools and free educational materials to give to parents.  Learn more at

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