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Rethinking The Importance of Eye Contact

"Can you please look at me when I'm speaking to you?""Look me in the eye!" "Are you Lying? Why won't you look me in the eyes when you're talking to me?" When it comes to understanding and supporting autistic individuals, society often places an undue emphasis on eye contact. It is a very important, and sometimes touchy, subject for most neurotypical people. they feel as though they are not being respected, listened to or understood if the person they care conversing with does not engage in consistent eye contact with them. Therapy programs and even well-meaning advice from loved ones often revolve around the idea that eye contact is a crucial milestone for autistic children to meet. However, it's time we reassess this perspective and recognize that eye contact should not be treated as a goal to be forced upon autistic children. In this blog post, I will explore why the obsession with eye contact can be harmful.

Autistic individuals may experience sensory processing differences, making the world a challenging and overwhelming place. Eye contact can be particularly distressing due to the intense sensory input it entails. Directly looking into someone's eyes can be uncomfortable for anyone, but for autistic children, it can trigger a flood of sensory information that hampers their ability to focus, communicate, and process information effectively. By pushing for eye contact, we may inadvertently subject them to unnecessary stress and sensory overload.

The assumption that a lack of eye contact equates to disinterest or lack of engagement is misguided. Autistic children may find it difficult to maintain eye contact, but that doesn't mean they are disengaged or uninterested in their surroundings.

Autistic individuals often communicate and interpret social cues differently from neurotypical individuals. Insisting on eye contact as a standard communication method disregards the diverse ways in which autistic individuals express themselves and understand others. Forcing eye contact may even hinder their ability to concentrate on the conversation or grasp the intended message. Instead, we should encourage and embrace the various communication styles exhibited by autistic individuals, including verbal expression (speaking), gestures, alternative augmentative communication methods, or written communication, among others.

As we strive for a more inclusive and supportive society, it is crucial to reevaluate the importance placed on eye contact for autistic children. By recognizing the challenges it poses and embracing alternative means of communication, we can create environments where autistic individuals can thrive, express themselves authentically, and build meaningful connections on their own terms. Let's shift our focus from eye contact to understanding, empathy, and acceptance, thereby fostering a world that values neurodiversity and celebrates the unique perspectives of all individuals.

1 Comment

Unknown member
Aug 11, 2023

I am definitely learning this. I grew up being told I NEED to look people in the eyes when I speak, otherwise I am going to be considered RUDE. This was ingrained in me. So I am learning with my daughter that she doesn’t make eye contact. And understanding myself…it’s not that she isn’t listening or being rude, it’s just her. And how she feels comfortable to communicate. Lots of lessons to learn not only being a mom but being a mom to a special child 💜

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