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Forced eye contact?

(19 Posts)
ruth2010 Thu 11-Nov-10 19:30:54

I've read in some of these posts about 'forced eye contact' and how this can not benefit a child with ASD.
My son is only nine months but is showing lots of the signs of ASD(poor eye contact & social interaction, not responding to name, doesn't like cuddles or wants to be picked up...). i feel there is definitely something wrong but we've been told to wait until he develops more and to try to encourage eye contact as much as possible. Is this the right advice?

(My son had meningitus at birth and was premature so we were told his development was likely to be affected)

justabouttosellakidney Thu 11-Nov-10 19:32:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

purplepidjin Thu 11-Nov-10 20:32:32

AFAIK, forced eye contact involves physically taking someone's face in your hands so that they look at you and/or shouting at them to "look at me when I'm talking to you"

Encouragement could be getting the child interested in a toy then dangling it in front of your face, or peek-a-boo, maybe?


WetAugust Thu 11-Nov-10 20:36:11

NEVER force eye contact. That's Dark Ages stuff that we were told to do back in less enlightened times.

Another ghastly technique back then was 'holding' when you were supposed to hold the child tight and only let go when they gave in and established eye contact.

My DS's record was 4 hours of screaming, spitting and crying until he gave in and looked at us. I used to tell the Pysch that it was ridiculous to expect us to do this but was told that was the only way to help DS.


Always 'encourage' but don't push it.

purplepidjin Fri 12-Nov-10 08:19:51

IME with older kids and teens, teaching them to look at the bridge of the nose or left ear works just as well grin

amberlight Fri 12-Nov-10 09:11:30

I am generalising here, since some people with autism can manage eye contact (I can for a while, though I don't know what it means...)

Eye contact pleases people who aren't autistic. It doesn't do a thing for us.

Our brains are (on the scans) shown to be wired up differently.
The eye contact signals end up going straight to the oldest part of the brain - the amygdala. Normally that bit is for spotting large scary animals about to eat us..."Eeek - pair of eyes staring at me...could there be vicious teeth with it? I need to run away or panic?"

In ordinary brains, that bit of the brain instantly checks with the other bits to find out whether the eyes belong to a monster, a person who might attack us, or a friend.

In ours, it can't find that info in time because the wiring between that bit and the temporal pole is dodgy/missing. So all it gets is a constant signal saying "Monster - run!" Bl*dy terrifying feeling.

Forcing us to do it is actually really cruel sometimes.

woolytree Fri 12-Nov-10 09:57:29

Im glad you posted amber as Id remembered you previous post about this but couldnt word it as well as you!

I see this in DD, even in her favourite cartoons she hides when 'eye balling' scenes are on. She has learned to give some eye contact but we never force it.

ruth2010 Fri 12-Nov-10 11:06:23

Thanks for all your messages - they make a lot of sense. It's really hard when you desperately want eye contact from your baby, but if he does have ASD, I can see that he won't feel the same (thanks amber).

amberlight Fri 12-Nov-10 11:18:14

I see really, really well out of 'peripheral vision' - in other words I can see all I need to see of someone by looking next to them rather than at them. I still love those in my life very much indeed, but yes, it can be very hard for people whose brains may need that eye contact/smile thingy to say "I love you". We have to learn to use words or signs to say it. Some of us are happy using touch and hugs (though find it scary when people do that to us as we can't control the sensory avalanche that happens when we get hugged unexpectedly).

I guess in a way it's a bit like making friends with a wild deer in the forest - if you go towards her too fast or stare at her directly, she'll run away. But if she trusts you enough for long enough and you keep things quiet and safe and don't stare or reach out for her, she'll eventually come close and share your space. Same with horses too. All have that same 'heck, scary eyes of a predator - run!" thing.

It's weird when I'm with horses. The other day I was out with a fairly 'wild' pack of them running loose in the countryside. The leader saw me and came straight over to put his head on my shoulder, and just relaxed. Somehow some animals sense that we're like them.

So...don't worry a lot about us not liking direct cuddles and not matching eye contact. Do encourage interest in people, though, using whatever nice things work. Make your face expressions really big, really clear, so we have a chance to see them. That helps our brains rewire enough to help us spot those emotions better in later life.

Sputnik Fri 12-Nov-10 13:27:04

I think I started the last eye contact thread on here!
The forced eye contact thing sounds awful.

Anyway, my DS is much older than yours and we still don't know if he has ASD, though it is looking incresingly like we are heading for a diagnosis at the mild end of the spectrum, his main symptom is communication delay and lack of eye contact. He does have some eye contact, and we have noticed that it usually occurs when we are sharing something fun, eg tickles, a good bit in a book, or one of his jokes (in so far as a 3 yo jokes!). If I was you I would work on that kind of thing, without pushing it obviously. When you get eye contact give a big positive reaction.

MaudOHara Fri 12-Nov-10 14:02:37

DS has fairly good eye contact - apart from when he is very anxious - he's much older than your DS 12yo though.

I don't force eye contact but I do ask him to look towards me so that I know that he is paying attention to what I am saying (for his own protection - eg. "I know you're worried about X and want to run, but you need to do it safely so wait for that car to go".

I think you can try to encourage it if you so wish but don't force it.

purplepidjin Fri 12-Nov-10 19:24:29

Amber, that explains perfectly about a lad I worked with years ago!

He was really keen to tell me about something he had been sent from home (residential school). Naturally, as soon as he spoke to me I turned to face him. He clammed up. I turned back to the TV, he started talking to me again. Oddest conversation I have been involved in (I stopped turning to face him after that as it obviously made him uncomfortable), as it felt really rude not to "pay attention" to him. I also found it hard to judge my responses to him as I couldn't see his face to read his expression. I guess those are the reasons why people not dx as on the spectrum find eye contact so important?

mariagoretti Fri 12-Nov-10 19:36:47

Ta Amber, I asked ds if looking at my eyes reminded him of a scary monster and he said yes. So I tried the left ear trick.

I wonder if this explains why I'm scary but the scooby-doo monsters are just entertaining!

mariagoretti Fri 12-Nov-10 19:41:04

Oh, sorry to hijack, quick question for Amber: you mentioned finding all the recent name changing difficult. Would it help if a poster pm'd you with an update about their proposed namechange or would that feel intrusive?

amberlight Sat 13-Nov-10 08:12:32

I'm so hopeless at names that it probably wouldn't, but it's a thoughtful idea. People have to cope with me not having a clue who they are, alas. Probably alarming for them. Might work if I write a careful list of who's who? I'm so bad that I can't recognise my own son in a crowd

MaudOHara Sat 13-Nov-10 21:08:49

I often find some of my most productive conversations with DS happen in the car as I am naturally focusing on the road ahead and therefore there is no eye contact.

TheArsenicCupCake Sat 13-Nov-10 22:18:25

When ds was a baby he was awful at eye contact..
( and he hated being held front to front.. Weird ).. But he was most happy sat on our laps facing forward and bumping his head back on to us for contact.

When he was older we just taught him the eyebrow nose ear mouth thing .. That way he looks as if he's looking to people who would otherwise say " look at me when I'm talking to you"..

Same as Amber he has great periferal vision and we know he's looking at us when he looks down and to the side when he's talking.

Anyway.. don't force it .. I know the effect it's had on ds when he's been told off at school for being rude ie not giving eye contact.

MintyMoo Sat 13-Nov-10 22:50:56

Amber - your posts have finally put into words what I've been trying to tell people for ages about why I don't like looking people in the eyes! When I was at school I was un diagnosed and teachers would get right up in my face, I never understood why I always felt so scared and just wanted to run away

Poor DP never understands why I have to turn my back to him sometimes to tell him things which are hard to discuss. I might have to show him this thread about eye contact, that'll help me explain why I scored 42 on the Autism Quotient thing test.

OP - don't force eye contact, people criticised me for 'not looking when I'm talking' - as a result I spent my teens and adulthood being told off for staring at people. I honestly don't realise I'm doing it, I've been told to do something which is not natural to me and mess it up. Encouraging eye contact through play sounds like a great plan though.

Triggles Sun 14-Nov-10 10:02:42

I have always been dreadful with eye contact - it makes me feel very uncomfortable. So I can see where the forced eye contact would be awful.

I've noticed that when talking to DS2, he sometimes does a quick glance almost to verify that we're actually talking to him and not DS3. Then he either looks at us from the side of his eyes or doesn't look at us at all.

In order to try to get him a bit comfortable with eye contact, we've started asking "what colour are my eyes?" and he actually makes that eye contact for slightly longer as he's looking to see what colour. LOL But no forcing involved. Not a clue if eventually it will help him maintain a little eye contact or not. But at least we're getting some occasional eye contact.

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