Saturday, May 18, 2024

Why Do Autistic Children Avoid Eye Contact

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Little Pointing Or Gesturing

Why Do People With Autism Avoid Eye Contact?

Babies usually learn to gesture before they learn to talk. In fact, gesturing is one of the earliest forms of communication. Autistic children generally point and gesture much less than children with nonautistic development. Less pointing can sometimes indicate the possibility of a language delay.

Another indicator of a developmental difference is when an infants gaze doesnt follow you when youre pointing at something. This skill is sometimes called joint attention. Joint attention is often decreased in autistic children.

Ways To Help Your Child Learn To Make Eye Contact

1)Use praise whenever your child does inadvertently look you in the eyes. There is a good article entitled, 5 Things to Say to your Special Needs Child Each Day, that talks about when and how to praise, and offers specific examples.

2)If your child is old enough, explain WHY eye contact is important. Be specific about where and when to use it ie: we look people in the eyes when they are speaking to us we wait until they have finished speaking to look away. Liam says Hi, is a great resource we have in our bookstore for younger children, and, The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment is good for teens and older.

3) Be patient and dont get frustrated. Eye contact is a learned skill for many on the autism spectrum. It will take time to learn, but the rewards are many both for you and your child with autism.

Fortunately there are many resources available to help address learning social skills, and now that eye contact may be considered one of them, they could be adapted to include eye contact as well.

Resources for Further Reading

Other Reasons For Limited Eye Contact

Autism is not the only reason that people struggle with maintaining eye contact. Lack of eye contact can also be a sign of social anxiety.

Someone who is anxious around others, shy, or lacks self-confidence may struggle to meet the eyes of other people. Stressful situations can also make individuals less likely to want to keep their heads up and look into someones eyes.

If you recognize eye contact as an issue for your child, take note of whether it is situational or if it something that persists all the time. Talk to your childs doctor about your concerns.

Recommended Reading: Hypnosis For Autism

Does Your Child Avoid Eye Contact Do You Worry She May Be Deaf

Babies are typically friendly, noisy and easily distracted. In about 1.5% of cases worldwide, though, a toddler will avoid other children, become easily fixated on an object, word or toy. Often, these children will avoid speaking. Its the long silences that get most cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosed.

Autism has no physical markers, so delayed speech is often what first gets noticed, says developmental paediatrician Dr Samir Dalwai. Most parents dont realise that speech is not an independent milestone. If your child is unable to participate in meaningful conversation by age two, if most of their speech consists of repetitive words, you should see a doctor.

As awareness among parents grows globally and in urban India April was declared autism awareness month in 2007 as part of the effort to spread the word experts caution against myths and partial truths.

Many parents believe, for instance, that autism can only be diagnosed around age 3. Signs can first become visible as early as six months. Watch out for how your infant reacts to interaction, says Dalwai. Look for signs like a reluctance to make eye contact or respond to their name. Watch out for long periods of non-interaction. A baby should be engaging with you and enjoying it.


Parental denial is often a factor in late diagnosis. And late diagnosis means that the child spends years without the help and the intervention to cope with their condition.


Should We Insist On Eye Contact With People Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders

Why is Eye Contact Difficult for Children With Autism ...

Rozella Stewart, M.A.

When and whether students who have autism spectrum disorders should be required to make eye contact is a controversial issue. It is possible to become very confused about this issue when one works with a number of differentusually very differentstudents who have autism.

Some people who have autism actively avoid eye contact and appear confused and anxious when it occurs. Some seemed to make eye contact relatively early but later reported they were actually looking at something that fascinated them . When cued “Look at me,” some make eye contact that recipients experience more as a staring gaze than as a communicative exchange. Some gradually learn to make eye contact and to read simple meanings that they have come to understand through experiences with what happens to them when a particular person’s eyes have a specific look.

In determining where we stand in the midst of ongoing controversy, it seems reasonable to consider what our purposes for expecting or “requiring” eye contact really are. Having defined our purposes, we need to ponder whether those purposes are best served by strategies that we employ.

Bovee, J.P. . My experiences with autism and how it related to “Theory of Mind” – Part 1. Advocate, 32, 18-19.

Stuart, R. . Should we insist on eye contact with people who have autism spectrum disorders. The Reporter, 5, 7-12.

Also Check: What Is The Symbol For Autism

Lack Of Eye Contact: A Possible Early Indicator Of Asd

Autism can be formally diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 24 months. While the diagnosis is typically not considered stable until age 2, parents may notice symptoms of autism in babies as young as 6 months old.

Babies often start out making eye contact, but research shows that babies who are later diagnosed with autism regularly lose interest in making eye contact. This interest often declines between 2 and 6 months.

A lack of eye contact in babies as young as 6 months old can be an indicator of autism. It is not the only indicator, however. It needs to occur along with other signs.

The History And Meaning Behind Eye Contact

In western societies, eye contact is associated with trust. Think of the bad guys in books and movies and their shifty eyes. History also credits the ability to make eye contact to our earliest survival instincts as a species. Babies and children who attracted attention through eye contact were more likely to be fed.

Read Also: What Is The Life Expectancy Of People With Autism

Reasons A Child Cannot Look You In The Eyes:

1. Social Anxiety He may just be plain afraid to connect with you. Concerns about making a social faux pau, or even not knowing what to say, can cause social anxiety. If a persons social anxiety has a severe affect on their ability to interact with others, they may consider consulting a psychologist to see if they can get some help for i.

2. Low Self-Esteem This could be the root cause of the social anxiety, but essential the person does not feel worthwhile enough to participate in a conversation with you. She will often look at the ground rather than the people around her, and she will say very little.

3. Difficulty Focusing Individuals who have a hard time focusing will frequently shift their gaze during conversations. Whether it is a visual processing issues that impedes fixation of the eyes, or an attention problem that causes distractibility, eye gazing can be a very difficult task to achieve.

4. Auditory Processing Issues Auditory Processing is when the brain interprets what the ears hear. When it is impaired is can significantly impact social interactions, often leaving the individual confused or embarrassed by their inability to interpret what is being said. To compensate people with auditory processing issues will often look at your mouth to figure out what you are saying. They also may look at a fixed object to avoid visual distractions so they can focus harder on auditory input.

Symptoms Of Autism In Young Children

Why Autistics Avoid Eye Contact – Remrov’s World of Autism #4

With babies and toddlers, the symptoms of autism are about what the child does NOT do at a typical age. The symptoms listed below happen at a variety of ages, but they are all things that a child with autism may NOT do. These symptoms include:

  • Child does not make eye contact
  • Child does not smile you smile at him/her
  • Child does not respond to his/her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
  • Child does not follow objects visually
  • Child does not point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
  • Child does not follow your finger when you point at things
  • Child does not make noises to get your attention
  • Child does not initiate or respond to cuddling
  • Child does not reach out to be picked up.

Read Also: Autistic Life Expectancy

Autistic Children Dont Avoid Eye Contact On Purpose Heres The Reason

Young children with autism do not avoid eye contact on purpose but miss the significance of social information in others eyes, scientists have found.

While reduced eye contact is a well-known symptom of autism used in early screeners and diagnostic instruments, why children with autism look less at other peoples eyes has not been known. Researchers at Marcus Autism Centre, Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine in the US, helped in answering these question.

This is important because we are disentangling very different understandings of autism, said Jennifer Moriuchi, a graduate student at Emory University. Depending on why you think children with autism are making less eye contact, you might have different approaches to treatment and different ideas about the brain basis of autism, said Moriuchi. Drug treatments and behavioural interventions are already being developed and tested on the basis of these different explanations, she said. By clarifying which explanation is correct, we can make sure that we are addressing the correct underlying concern, Moriuchi said.

Research In Different Interactive Contexts

A lot of research has been done to assess social-communicative behavior in a single interactive context, for example during play with a parent, or interactions with examiners in structured settings.

The team of researcher Gangi examined prospectively infant gaze behavior at 6, 9, and 12 months of age in infants who were later diagnosed with ASD, as well as low- and high-risk infants without autism spectrum disorder outcomes. They investigated whether gaze behavior was associated across two interactive contexts:

  • Structured testing with an unfamiliar examiner
  • Infants that were 9 months old with higher levels of gaze to the face of an examiner during structured testing also had higher levels of gaze to the face of the parent during a play interaction. Therefore, gaze behavior in context 1 predicted gaze behavior in context 2.

    The associations found in this study support the validity and use of observing social-communicative behavior with an examiner, a setting in which the gaze behavior of children with ASD or at risk for ASD is frequently tested.


    Gangi, D.N. Schwichtenberg, A.J. Iosif A.-M. Young, G.S. Baguio F. & Ozonoff, S. . Gaze to faces across interactive contexts in infants at heightened risk for autism. Autism: the international journal of research and practice. , 1-6. DOI: 10.1177/1362361317704421.

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    Why Do Autistic Children Avoid Eye Contact

    Eye contact is a very personal and intimate thing. Children with autism are uncomfortable with this and will look at something other than the eyes even when they are looking at a persons face. Children who dont like to be hugged or kissed will especially avoid eye contact.

    Other children with autism arent really avoiding eye contact they are just too involved in trying to remember every last detail of something they want to tell you, verbatim. Eyes rolling away or looking in another direction are typical actions of non-autistic people who are trying really hard to remember something important. You can see it if you spend time with an elderly relative they squint, look at the floor or off in the distance, or close their eyes to get closer to what it was they wanted to tell you.

    It may also be that the child is a little shy. High functioning children with autism are not immune to shyness. Parents can tell the difference if their child is generally quiet around adults and other children and hides entirely behind Mom or Dad when company comes a-calling.

    More Concerns:

    Reason For No Eye Contact They Are Hiding Something

    Why autistic kids avoid eye contact explained

    If someone is hiding something or lying about something, they will have a difficult time looking you in the eyes. This is not the case for everyone though. There are some people who lie and hide things that can still maintain good eye contact.

    They avoid eye contact because they are worried you will see right through them and know that what they are saying isnt the truth. Since eyes really do show you into someones soul, they know this and feel guilty so avoid eye contact. If someone doesnt feel guilty though, they will be able to hold eye contact because even though they are hiding something they dont feel bad about it.

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    Reduced Emotion In Facial Expressions

    Facial expressions are a nonverbal way to communicate thoughts and feelings.

    Research on emotional expression in autistic infants is limited, but in studies involving school-age children, researchers have found that autistic children display less emotion through facial expressions than children with nonautistic development.

    That doesnt necessarily mean autistic children are feeling less emotion, just that less of it shows on their faces when they do.

    Reason For No Eye Contact You Arent Visually Appealing

    This one isnt meant to come across as though you arent good looking. Its just that different people have unique tastes in what they find attractive.

    We have a harder time maintaining eye contact with people who we dont find visually appealing. I dont mean that you have to think someone is hot to look at them. But if they have a feature you really dont like, or you just dont find them very appealing it will be more difficult to maintain eye contact with them. People like looking at things they find attractive.

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    S For Autism And Eye Contact Skills

    Step number 1: The more fun and entertaining you are, the better the eye contact will be. Pairing yourself with reinforcement is the subject of a previous blog, so you can check that out and learn how to pair yourself in all kinds of situations. Pairing will help eye contact.

    Step number 2: If youre the giver of good things that the child wants, eye contact, as well as smiles, will probably be better too. One trick is to hold it up to your mouth then say the word two or three times. If the child seems to want a banana, you hold up a banana and you say, Banana. Banana. Banana. If I had the choice between a child looking at my mouth or looking at my eyes, I choose my mouth every time. I want them to start looking at my whole face, especially my mouth, as Im saying the word slowly three times.

    Step number 3: Get down to your childs level when talking as much as possible. You cant expect the child to look at your face or understand language if youre too far away.

    Step number 4: I would pair up a table and use Early Learner programs like my Shoebox program, which almost always results in better verbal and nonverbal communication skills. I did another video blog on table time, so you may want to check that out too.

    Why The Lack Of Eye Contact

    Why do Autistic Kids do that?[Avoid eye contact, Cover their eyes/ears/face, Walk on their toes]

    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

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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?

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