Developing a schedule to identify social communication difficulties and autism spectrum disorder in young children with visual impairment


Dr Naomi Dale at Wolfson Neurodisability Service, Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust, Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JH, UK. E-mail:


Available observational tools used in the identification of social communication difficulties and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) rely partly on visual behaviours and therefore may not be valid in children with visual impairment. A pilot observational instrument, the Visual Impairment and Social Communication Schedule (VISS), was developed to aid in identifying social communication difficulties and ASD in young children with visual impairment affected by congenital disorders of the peripheral visual system (disorders of the globe, retina, and anterior optic nerve). The VISS was administered to 23 consecutive children (age range 1y 9mo–6y 11mo, mean 4y 1mo [SD 1.6]; 12 males, 11 females) with visual impairment (nine with severe and 14 with profound visual impairment). Item analysis was carried out by fit of the items to the Rasch model. Validity of the VISS was explored by comparison with the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score, and the clinical ASD diagnosis (n=9). Correlation between the VISS and CARS total scores was highly significant (Spearman’s rho=−0.89; p=0.01). Below threshold rating on the VISS (score of 35) showed good agreement with the clinical ASD diagnosis (sensitivity 89%, specificity 100%). This preliminary study shows the VISS to be a promising schedule to aid the identification of ASD in young children with visual impairment.