Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Can A Child With Autism Make Eye Contact

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Why Is Eye Contact Difficult And Distressing For Individuals With Autism

How to Teach Your Child With Autism to Make Eye Contact

The question why individuals with autism avoid or have reduced eye contact has been asked for a long time. Studies debunked the theory that lack of eye contact indicates an indifference and lack of empathy.

Since children with autism cannot convey what they want or feel through making eye contact, it is difficult to engage with them. Some of the research did not suggest uncomfortable sensation in children with autism when they were subjected to eye contact.

However, the results of the studies are enough to rethink the consequences of coercing them to practice the behavior.

During their therapies, sometimes children with autism are forced to look into someones eye so as to complete their task. However, forcing children with ASD into making eye contact may create a lot of anxiety for them.

Instead of forcing children with autism into making eye contact, it has to be a slow process of getting used to the concept. This may be a more appropriate manner to help them handle the process of eye contact without causing stress.

In this way, the impact that avoiding eye contact has on the social brain can also be avoided.

Society should also understand the reasons for avoiding eye contact by individuals on the autism spectrum. Understanding that eye contact can actually create physical and psychological discomfort would help other people see the complexities of facial expressions for such individuals.

When Eye Contact Is Stressful

On the other hand, the act of making eye contact is extremely stressful for some people affected by autism. There are many books and articles written by adults with autism who describe the terrible stress they felt when well-meaning parents and teachers tried to force them to make eye contact during conversations. In many cases, they describe being further distracted and unable to focus on the conversation because of this insistence.

Weve also learned from these wonderful individuals that when others give them leeway to communicate in a more-comfortable manner they can engage in conversations and participate in school, work, and social interactions just fine.

Other Factors Affecting Childrens Eye Contact

Within the past several years, theres been an increase in the number of children being given phones and tablets at an earlier age. This exposure is causing a delay in childrens social engagement and eye contact because theyre constantly looking away to stare at a tablet or phone.

To combat the social effects of excessive screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics makes the following recommendations:

  • Avoid screen time in children under 18 months of age, unless its video chatting.

  • Choose high-quality programming for children 18-24 months and watch it with them to help them understand what theyre seeing.

  • Children 2-5 years old should be limited to one hour of quality programming per day.

  • Allow children equal exposure to social engagements without a screen in front of them.

HAS YOUR CHILD HAD AN EYE EXAM YET? Schedule an appointment with a pediatric eye doctor near you.

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Whats The Outlook For Autistic Children

Autism is a spectrum of neurological differences that develop during childhood.

Although there is not a cure for autism, many in the autism community believe these neurological differences dont need to be cured. Theyre just a different way of communicating and interacting with the world.

Decades of research have shown that early intervention can have a powerful effect on health outcomes for autistic children. When therapies begin in early childhood, autistic children benefit from the incredible adaptability of their growing brain and nervous system.

Some signs of autism can appear during infancy, such as:

  • limited eye contact

Lack Of Eye Contact As A Symptom Of Autism

The Hanen Centre

Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Lack of eye contact” is a well-known symptom of autism. People with autism are less likely to look directly at another person’s eyes, which suggests they’re less engaged with others or less responsive to people in general.

However, lack of eye contact isn’t as simple as it seems. Not only can it occur for many different reasons, but it may also have quite a few causes.

Recommended Reading: How To Deal With A Child With High Functioning Autism

Heres Why Autistic People Dont Look You In The Eye

People with autism have difficulties with behaviour, communication, social interaction and dealing with sensory input. However, not everyone on the “autism spectrum” displays all these characteristics and to the same degree.

Parents of autistic children have problems with the fact that their kids rarely look people in the eye. Now, new research is suggesting reasons for this phenomenon.

“Contrary to what has been thought, the apparent lack of interpersonal interest among people with autism is not due to a lack of concern,” said study co-author Dr Nouchine Hadjikhani.

“Rather, our results show that this behaviour is a way to decrease an unpleasant excessive arousal stemming from overactivation in a particular part of the brain,” she said.

Hadjikhani is director of neurolimbic research at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Biomedical Imaging.

According to the South African Medical Journal The United States Department of Health estimates that cases of autism have increased 500% over the past five years.

Toxic environmental “trigger”

While avoiding eye contact is often regarded as a sign of social or personal indifference, many people with autism say eye contact causes them discomfort or stress, the study authors noted.

Autism is a behaviourally defined developmental disorder which appears to be caused in early development by the impact of the environment on a genetic predisposition.

Brain activity monitored

Cascading effects

Read more:

Autism And Eye Contact: Should You Be Teaching Eye Contact To Children With Autism

Many children with autism spectrum disorder struggle with and have poor eye contact. Both parents and professionals often wonder if we should focus on teaching eye contact, and, if so, how to teach this important nonverbal skill. Today Im going to get on my soapbox about autism and eye contact.

Each week I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism around. So, if you havent subscribed to my YouTube channel, you can do that now.

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Lack Of Eye Contact In Toddlers And Children

Lack of eye contact does not have one single cause. There may be a lot of reasons why a child might not engage in eye contact. This does not mean that the child has autism. A child may not make eye contact because they may:

  • dislike the person who is attempting to make an eye contact,
  • have an unnoticed hearing problem,
  • feel social anxiety or shyness.

In the case of children with autism, avoidance of eye contact can stem from other reasons. There is no definitive cause revealed by the studies, but there are a few ideas indicating why autistic children may lack eye contact.

Children with autism often do not prompt other children to make eye contact. They are not inclined with social motivation similar to children with typical development.

In addition, autistic children may find more than one social stimulus overwhelming. They may not be able to focus both on spoken language and on other peoples eyes at the same time.

Children with autism may not understand the social cues from a persons eyes. They may not be able to understand that watching a persons eye may also provide information.

Eye contact can, therefore, be very intense and overwhelming in terms of sensory experience. They may feel overwhelmed and stressed, and avoid the practice.

In conclusion, children with autism generally

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Can Autistic People Make Eye Contact?
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    Autism And Eye Contact

    In summary, I would never try to force eye contact or focus on it with structured programming. But there are some autism and eye contact strategies that would encourage eye contact. Be more fun. Be a giver, not a taker. Pair up table time. And get in front of and down at the childs level when talking or playing.

    If you liked this video blog, I would love it if you would leave me a comment, give me a thumbs up wherever youre watching it, and share the video with others who might benefit. To learn more about increasing language in children with autism and decreasing problem behaviors, , and Ill see you right here next week.

    Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?

    Research Question #1 How Do People With Self

    Our analysis of this particular research question revealed 5 major themes and 14 subthemes , described below and found in . Direct quotations are incorporated throughout to exemplify each subtheme. Additional quotations for each subtheme can be found in .

    1) Adverse reactions

    This theme includes subthemes related to negative emotional and physiological reactions experienced in response to eye contact, and subthemes related to pain, and threat responses. Data in this theme provide support for the basic premise of the hyperarousal model, which predicts that people with ASD will experience affective arousal in response to eye contact.

    Fear/Anxiety. The most common emotions reported in the data included anxiety, panic, fear.

    Making eye contact feels sort of like the first breath one takes under water using scuba gear, where theres this moment of panic as your body says, No, no, youll drown!

    Another said,

    I get nervous but not like scared nervous just like umlike a shaky kind of nervous

    Physiological Reactions. Negative physiological reactions in response to eye contact ranged from feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, watery or tired eyes, increased heart rate, nausea, tremors, and overheating. Several people compared the sensations of eye contact to be similar to that of staring into the sun.

    If I am forced to make eye contact, my body becomes tense, my skin tingles, my jawline becomes somewhat numb.

    Another person said,

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    Should Parents Of An Autistic Child Encourage Eye Contact At Home

    According to, encouraging eye contact is something parents should try with their child, but forcing eye contact may do more harm than good.

    Why? Eye contact can be very stressful for those with autism. It can distract them from listening to the actual message being communicated by the person theyre making eye contact with.

    Dry says parents should attempt teaching eye contact. When more leeway is given to communicate in a way the child feels comfortable, theyre more likely to engage and participate.

    You should always give the child the benefit of the doubt never say Were not going to work on that because its hard, she says. If youve tried but find that its not beneficial to the child and its not accomplishing anything, then teach them other methods to show theyre paying attention.

    These methods include:

    • Encouraging the child to stay a conversational distance from whomever is speaking to them and avoid wandering off in the middle of conversation.

    • Teaching the child to look toward the face without looking directly into the eyes .

    • Condition the child to provide responses to show that theyre paying attention .

    Is Poor Eye Contact A Sign Of Autism

    Eye Contact and Autism

    Reduced eye contact is a prominent symptom of autism used in early screening and diagnostic instruments and evaluations . Parents are often warned about unusual eye contact and its significance as a red flag for autism.

    Focusing on babies ability to make eye contact with caregivers, a study found signs of autism as early as two months after birth. It was found that typical children became more interested in eyes as they grew up, whereas children with autism started losing interest between the ages of two and six months.

    The study used eye-tracking technology to observe where babies focused their gaze. The data showed a marked difference between typical children and those with autism. Whereas typical children spent more time focused on the caregivers eyes the children with autisms interest in the caregivers eyes steadily declined after two months of age.

    This loss of interest in other peoples eyes is probably the earliest behavioral marker of autism discovered to date. Interestingly, the researchers also found the steeper the decline in eye fixation in the first two years of life, the greater the social impairment at the age of two years .

    Another study noted the difference between neurotypical children and those with autism when cued to look at a specific area. Surprisingly children with ASD looked for longer at regions they had been cued to look at; if they were cued to look at the eyes they looked for longer than the neurotypical children.;

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    Why The Lack Of Eye Contact

    There are many reasons why any child might not make eye contact; by no means do all of those reasons relate to autism. For example, they may:

    • Be fearful of or dislike the person who is attempting to make eye contact
    • Have a hearing problem and be unaware that they should look at someone
    • Feel a general sense of social anxiety or shyness
    • Be from a culture that sees direct eye contact as a sign of disrespect

    Children with autism, however, generally seem to avoid eye contact for different reasons. While studies are not absolutely conclusive, findings suggest that children with autism:

    • Often lack the usual social motivation that leads other children to make eye contact
    • Find it difficult to focus both on spoken language and on another person’s eyes at the same time
    • May not understand that watching another person’s eyes is more revealing than, for example, watching that person’s mouth or hands
    • Can find eye contact to be a very intense and overwhelming sensory experience

    Limited Or No Response To Their Name

    At 6 months , most infants show an awareness of their own names, especially when its spoken by their mother.

    Autistic infants show a developmental difference: By 9 months, many babies who later develop ASD dont orient to their own names. say this usually appears as a pattern of nonresponse, rather than a single instance.

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    What Are The Signs Of Autism In Babies

    Autism doesnt change a babys physical appearance. The condition does affect how babies communicate and how they relate to the world around them.

    Autism is described as a spectrum condition because signs, symptoms, and abilities can vary widely. If you notice any of these developmental differences, its important to talk with your childs doctor or healthcare professional about them.

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    BYU engineers create glasses to help children with autism make eye contact

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    Encouraging Eye Contact With Sensitivity

    Below are some general strategies you can practice. We caution that these strategies cant replace an individualized therapy program under the guidance of a qualified professional. Behavioral therapists use a variety of approaches to encourage and increase eye contact. These can include reinforcing natural and spontaneous occurrences of eye contact and increasing the duration of eye contact during conversation.

    When introducing a new skill, its important to teach it in small steps, while slowly advancing your expectations as your son progresses. We recommend practicing in casual and private situations with few other demands on his attention.

    Also keep in mind, that in some situations, there are more-important priorities than eye contact. For instance, most of us tend to break off eye contact when were trying to remember something.

    Eye Contact Is Stressful For Autistic Kids

    In social interactions, eye contact drives all non-verbal exchange. It is a measure of the other persons interest in us and reaction to what we have to say. In fact, it helps us pick up several social cues during a conversation. For children with autism, this simple communication tool can be a formidable challenge.;Making eye contact, for them, is often a most daunting, stressful task which if forced, could set off anxiety, inattention, confusion even.;Adults with autism describe the feeling of helplessness, and complete and utter confusion resulting from the attempts by their well-meaning parents and teachers to get them to look people in the eye. Some of them say the stress left them further distracted and unable to focus on the conversation so that they just wanted to escape and would leave the scene.So, should we or should we not insist on eye contact in children with autism? It depends. Research says the best way out is to gauge what does or does not work for your child; look for the signs and see whether encouraging eye contact helps your child focus his attention better or makes him nervous and therefore, distracted.

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