• autism;
  • visual impairment

Abstract  The aim of the present study was to assess the prevalence and associated risk factors of autism in a sample of visually impaired children and adolescents. A total of 257 blind children and adolescents (age range: 7–18 years) were examined for autism using a three-stage process. The first stage estimated probable cases of autistic disorder based on the Autism Behavior Checklist and the second stage by direct observation of the subjects in different settings. In the third stage, subjects with the probable diagnosis of autistic disorder were asked to undergo psychiatric examination. A final diagnosis of autistic disorder (based on the criteria in DSM-IV) was given after interviewing the caregivers and clinical observation. Thirty of 257 subjects met the criteria for autistic disorder. Comparison of the characteristics of the two groups (autistic and non-autistic) with χ2-squared and independent sample t-tests revealed a statistically significant difference in terms of severity of blindness (P = 0.015), cerebral palsy (P = 0.02) and intellectual level (P = 0.001). The results of the present study suggest that subjects with blindness plus autism have greater neurological impairment (as suggested by the presence of lower intellectual level and cerebral palsy), and more severe visual impairment than the subjects with blindness only.