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Excessive Blinking in Children with Autism

May 24, 2024

Do you ever watch your child with autism begin to blink excessively? Well, you’re not alone. Many parents are puzzled by this behavior. Understanding the nature of autism blinking is crucial in providing support and assistance.

Excessive blinking can manifest in various forms and intensities among individuals on the spectrum, making it a complex issue. You have come to the right place to shed light on the nature of blinking in autism and its prevalence within the community. Let’s learn more about it.

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Potential causes of autism blinking

Excessive blinking is a common occurrence among children with autism. It is a repetitive and involuntary movement of the eyelids that can be quite disruptive to their daily activities.

Children with autism may blink excessively, frequently, or rapidly, which can lead to discomfort and social stigma. The logical cause of excessive blinking in autism is not fully understood.

However, several factors may contribute to this behavior. Some possible causes and triggers include:

  1. Motor tics: Excessive blinking can be classified as a motor tic, which is a repetitive and involuntary movement.
  2. Stress and anxiety: Stressful or anxiety-provoking situations may increase the occurrence of excessive blinking in individuals with autism. It is important to understand that blinking behavior may serve as a self-soothing mechanism in response to these emotional states.
  3. Comorbid conditions: Some individuals with autism may have comorbid conditions, such as tic disorders or comorbid conditions that cause involuntary movements.
  4. Sensory sensitivities: Individuals with autism may have heightened sensory sensitivities, including sensitivity to light or visual stimuli.

Medical reasons for excessive blinking in toddlers and children

Problems with the front of the eye can lead to dry eyes, which then leads to excessive blinking. Habitual tics (involuntary repetitive body movements) are usually caused by stress, anxiety, fatigue, or boredom.

Strabismus can be a cause of excessive blinking because the eyes are not lined up correctly, pointing in different directions.

According to a study in 2022, nutrition played a role in lessening digital eye strain. The study concluded that computers and handheld electronic devices are irreplaceable in our daily lives and have led to digital eye strain.

In recent years, poor nutrition intake has become increasingly evident, causing a decline in optimal vision performance.

Excessive blinking vs. tics

Tourette syndrome is a common movement disorder in childhood. However, the management of such patients still can pose therapeutic challenges for medical professionals.

A study in 2016 described tics as brief and sudden movements or sounds that may appear repetitive, such as excessive eye blinking. Parents who suspect Tourette syndrome should contact a medical professional for further evaluation.


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The impact of excessive blinking on daily life

Children with autism who experience excessive blinking may find it difficult to focus and concentrate in the classroom, which then leads to a significant negative impact on the child’s academic performance.

Excessive blinking can also affect the social lives of autistic children. It might make it harder for them to communicate and connect with others, and other kids may find it confusing, leading to possible isolation.

It is crucial for teachers and parents to be aware of the potential impact of excessive blinking on a child’s daily performance.

Treatment for excessive blinking behavior in autism

It is important to understand there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for excessive blinking in children with autism. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying cause.

Some treatment options that may be effective include:

Managing excessive blinking at home

As a parent, it can be so disheartening to see your child struggle, whether academically or medically. A pivotal response for parents is to provide their children with ways to cope in the home.

To help your little one with excessive blinking, you can:

  • Identify triggers (certain sounds, textures, or activities may be overwhelming for your child)
  • Create a calm environment (a calm and predictable environment at home can help with anxiety and promote relaxation)
  • Encourage self-regulation (teach deep breathing techniques or counting to 10)
  • Provide sensory input (weighted blankets, fidgets, sensory toys)
  • Communicate with teachers (providing extra breaks or modifying assignments)

Working as a team with your child’s healthcare providers and educators, you can help your child manage their symptoms and thrive.

How to manage excessive blinking at home
https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/excessive-blinking-autism/

Support and understanding

Excessive blinking is a common occurrence among children with autism. Sensory sensitivities, anxiety,  and other comorbidities can play a factor in excessive blinking. Improper nutrition, Tourette syndrome, and allergies are a few medical issues that can cause excessive blinking in toddlers and children.

You can manage the excessive blinking at home by identifying triggers, creating a calm environment, practicing self-regulation techniques, and offering sensory input.

FAQs

Q: Is excessive blinking a form of stimming?

A: Yes, excessive blinking can be a form of stimming (self-stimulatory behavior) in individuals with autism. Stimming often involves repetitive movements or actions that help individuals cope with sensory experiences or manage their emotions.

Q: Is there a connection between autism and lack of blinking?

A: Some children with autism may experience eye-related challenges, and a lack of blinking could be one of them. These challenges might include atypical gaze patterns, difficulties with eye contact, or unusual blinking behaviors, which could be linked to sensory processing issues or other sensory sensitivities.

Q: Can excessive blinking be anxiety?

A: Yes, excessive blinking can be associated with anxiety, especially in individuals with sensory processing challenges or heightened stress levels. It may serve as a coping mechanism or a response to overwhelming stimuli.

Q: Can excessive blinking be cured?

A: Excessive blinking in the context of autism is typically managed rather than cured. Behavioral therapies, sensory strategies, and supportive interventions can help individuals with autism cope with this behavior and improve their overall well-being.

Resources

Ganos, C., Martino, D., & Pringsheim, T. (2017). Tics in the pediatric population: Pragmatic management. Movement Disorders Clinical Practice (Hoboken, N.J.), 4(2), 160-172. https://doi.org/10.1002/mdc3.12428

Lem, D. W., Gierhart, D. L., & Davey, P. G. (2022). Can nutrition play a role in ameliorating digital eye strain? Nutrients, 14(19),  4005. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14194005 

Pardhan, S., Parkin, J., Trott, M., & Driscoll, R. (2022). Risks of digital screen time and recommendations for mitigating adverse outcomes in children and adolescents. The Journal of School Health, 92(8), 765- 773. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.13170

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