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A quick Question to anyone with, or a parent of a child with ASD

(9 Posts)
Elfina Fri 06-Feb-15 18:50:30

Evening allsmile.

I currently work in lots of schools in my role, and I just wanted to canvass opinion - I know I could google but if appreciate some personal responses!

One of the children I'm likely to be working with has a recent diagnosis of ASD. Naturally, how it might affect each individual's interactions with others will differ, however, this you g man has difficulties with maintaining eye contact.

In our initial meeting, the member of staff who introduced us kept insisting that he "looked at me whilst I'm talking to you".

I might be wrong, but I felt as if this might be something that would hugely increase anxiety?

I'll be upfront and say that I am a clinical psychologist, and it's a part of my role to help staff work with children with different needs in mainstream education, though I am not an ASD specialist. Before I potentially speak with staff, if like to hear responses about the issue!

Thank you!

AnimalsAreMyFriends Fri 06-Feb-15 18:56:16

Parent of 2 ASD boys here. (Also a teacher)

My younger ds would find being asked to make eye contact repeatedly, very anxiety provoking. With him, what I find (and recommend to those working with him) is, that he always needs to be cued in, using his name, so it is absolutely clear that you are addressing him, and to touch him gently under the chin and make eye contact - but don't expect him to maintain it.

My elder ds is ok with being reminded verbally - but do it too much, and he will shut down.

I would think that once you begin working with him, you'll be able to work out a way that best suits his needs.

HowCanIMissYouIfYouWontGoAway Fri 06-Feb-15 19:01:46

I HATE it when people try to insist on eye contact.

My sons' head (both of them, and they both have autism) is a bugger for this. Always trying to make my youngest look at him after incidents.

I had to say in the end look, don't make him look at you, it makes it LESS likely not more likely that he can hear what you say!

When they force eye contact they are doing that for their benefit, not for the child's, imo.

Work on eye contact at other times, more casually, more informally. I'd never insist on it during higher anxiety times and never make a massive issue of it.

I find eye contact hugely intrusive and almost physically painful. I cannot talk properly if I have to look at someone. It is a barrier to communication for me, so I do understand how my kids feel, at least a little.

accessorizequeen Fri 06-Feb-15 19:13:36

My son is 11, with Aspergers about 7 months after diagnosis. He doesn't make a lot of eye contact. I don't imagine he'd feel very comfortable being told to always make eye contact as he can find it difficult.

KneeQuestion Fri 06-Feb-15 19:23:41

My son finds this very difficult.

I have seen teachers insist on it and have had to explain why it firstly doesn't happen and why insisting increases anxiety.

My son goes a step further, he finds others looking right at him hard, even if he breaks their gaze, knowing they are still looking right at him makes him feel worse!

QuestionsaboutDS Fri 06-Feb-15 19:32:22

I think this is bad practice for any educator because lots of NT children look away as part of their recall strategy, but if you're working with people with ASD it's clearly ludicrous.

However, out in the "real world" it's sometimes a useful skill to have if you want to fit in because a lot of people feel irrationally strongly about it. So the question is why was this staff member doing this? Was he just being thoughtless and insisting on it for his own personal power kick? Or is it a social/communication skill that he's specifically working on with this young person?

Elfina Fri 06-Feb-15 19:37:13

The child was looking into the middle distance, but it was very clear that he was listening to her. I think it reflected her own discomfort, to be honest.

I need to think of a tactful, helpful way of communicating this to her (baring in mind the school commission our service!)

TheObligatoryNotQuiteSoNewGirl Fri 06-Feb-15 20:01:51

I have ASD. Eye contact is creepy. To me, it's like looking into someone's soul, and you'd have to be pretty special for me to look into your soul/let you look into mine - it's not something I'd do with strangers or casual acquaintances! Even if I happen to accidently make eye contact with someone for less than a second it freaks me out. In a confrontational situation, it would definitely make things worse.

To be honest, I don't see the point of eye contact. The important thing is for staff/students to know that they're listening to each other like PPs have said.

HedgehogsDontBite Fri 06-Feb-15 20:04:27

I have AS as does my daughter. We both look at a spot between and just above the eyes. Most people then don't realise we're not actually making eye contact. Works for us.

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