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Eye contact.

(18 Posts)
macwoozy Thu 21-Apr-05 11:58:38

Hi, I've been reading with great interest the SN/NT threads, and wondered whether my concerns about eye contact deserved a new thread, but I know many of you have so much experience of ASD behaviours that I'm going to ask anyway. I did look at archives.........honest. By the way, I would love to return the help that I've already recieved by being able to offer help myself, but TBH, I don't ever think I've got anything worthwhile to say.

My ds, 5 who has AS/HFA, has increasingly been avoiding eye contact. I know that this is often typical with such children, but to others who are unaware of this, it appears that he's not actually listening, which is not the case.

For the last few days, I've asked him to try and look at me, but he becomes so angry. He can't tolerate criticism in any form. Considering he's already at a disadvantage socially, I worry that his lack of eye contact will only make social situations harder for him. I read that some AS children benefit from looking at mouths or chins rather than eyes, but I've suggested this to him, with no succcess.

I asked his SALT what I should do, but I didn't really get any answers, which is why I'm asking you intelligent lot.

DO you think making eye contact is important enough to risk upsetting him, or should I just accept it's just part of his AS and leave it at that. Does anyone know of any strategies that I could possibly use?

binkie Thu 21-Apr-05 12:08:50

1. Turn it into an intellectual concept: did you know that lasers and radio beams carry messages? Well, eyes do that too. If you don't catch the eye-messages, you won't get the whole story. You don't need to keep looking, just make sure you try to catch the beam.

2. Play eye direction games: we had good results from "eye-pointing" games - see if you can guess what I am looking at, only by looking, no hands or words.

3. See if you can work out when he is happy making eye contact and when not: eg, ds is very happy indeed w/ mutual gaze when being told a story, but doesn't much like trying to look and explain a complex thought of his own at the same time. That's when I use the "make sure you send the laser message to check I've heard you" idea. And perhaps reinforce the eye-contact idea only in the non-stressful circumstances.

Njata Thu 21-Apr-05 12:19:31

Have you asked him why he doesnt like to make eye contact? If I were able to talk to my 2, I would certainly ask them. Their answer would be my starting point. If they told me it, I don't know, hurt them or something, I would tell them to try looking at the space between the persons eyes, or the end of their nose, (which looks like eye contact, but is just that little bit off to maybe be more comfortable).

Its only my opinion, but eye contact is not the be all and end all, if it is very distressing for him, why put him thru it. Maybe there is a signal he can give to show he is listening, that everyone who is regular in his life can be made aware of? Find out why he doesnt like it if you can, help him to understand why people generally expect eye contact and maybe the 2 of you can figure something out- I for one would be very interested to hear what he says.

beccaboo Thu 21-Apr-05 12:28:07

My ds is a bit younger (3), but the SALT suggested that if you're trying to discuss an object, hold it up next to your eyes so that he has to look in that direction. I've also started not responding to requests unless he makes eye contact with me.

The SALT did say though that they don't really try to teach eye contact any more, because it's such a difficult thing to teach.

imho it's not the most important thing in the world, but it's funny how you notice it once you know what you're looking for. There have been several incidents where I've felt slightly uncomfortable talking to someone, but wasn't quite sure why. Then I've realised that it's because they haven't made eye contact with me.

macwoozy Thu 21-Apr-05 12:40:08

I like the sound of the laser idea, just recently he's been lapping up so much information about any subject, so this should go down a treat. He does in fact make eye contact when excited, its as if he's forgotten that he finds eye contact unpleasant, if this makes sense. He especially won't make eye contact when I'm explaining something to him. Maybe he can't cope with looking at hearing at the same time, I don't know.
Thanks again binkie.

Njata, when I have asked him why he doesn't like looking at my eyes, he just says he doesn't want to. I won't push for an explanation but tonight I'll give the laser theory a go, and see if I can get a better answer. I'll let you know if I do.

Thanks Beccabboo, another good idea to try later. Yeh, I've got to agree, it is off putting when you're not recieving eye contact from others. It might appear as being very rude.

Njata Thu 21-Apr-05 12:43:55

Can't believe that didn't occur to me! Of course, hold things up so eye contact is difficult if not impossible to avoid, and also wait for eye contact before responding to requests - I do it with drinks for example, before I hand it over, I wait for that little look! In fact, anything they want me to get them. You know, I don't even realise I'm doing it these days. (I still think since he can talk, start by asking him why - he may not be able to articulate his feelings, but it doesnt hurt to ask)

But something rather disturbing has just occured to me - I do it as standard. Not just with the boys, but to everyone, its just the way I have become thru years of having to do it!

I must seem so odd!!

Njata Thu 21-Apr-05 12:48:34

sorry macwoozy I was typing away when you posted and didnt see! Sounds like it makes him really uncomfortable. I know I personally dont like eye contact, I myself look at peoples noses instead - eye contact feels too intimate, too personal and makes me feel vulnerable! I just feel like they have come right into me and are invading my personal space (lots of eyes make me feel like shouting 'get out, get away'!!!) I'm not autistic, but maybe he feels something like that but cant explain it.

Jayzmummy Thu 21-Apr-05 12:57:44

Quick post....try getting him to look at peoples ears instead!!! It just looks like he is looking at the yes instead....we get J to do this and it works.

binkie Thu 21-Apr-05 13:01:50

Hope it helps, macwoozy! - my ds is just the same on lapping up info, and also same in that the more his interest is engaged the more natural his eye contact is. Also, letting him know that in more stressful situations just fleeting (rather than sustained) eye contact is good enough seems to help.

I'm afraid I do insist on ds trying, though: but that's because I think he can do it, and that it isn't severely stressful for him. Would take a different line if it was.

macwoozy Thu 21-Apr-05 13:04:16

That's really interesting Njata, it's really helpful to get reasons why someone like yourself finds eye contact difficult, and even though I don't experience this, I can understand why you might feel it to be intimate and personal.

My dp, who I feel has AS, but not been dx'd, has the opposite problem, in that he stares intensly when talking to someone. He just can't help himself.

I'm also going to encourage ds to make eye contact when requesting things, it's all worth a go.

Jayzmummy, I've tried that, no success.

maddiemo Thu 21-Apr-05 13:14:07

Have not had time to read but my portage worker said that adults with as had told her that they needed to look away to concentrate on listening and forming a response. Eye conatct is not made a big thing of here expect for children with very poor joint attention skills.

MotherEve Thu 21-Apr-05 14:17:10

My son told me that he "can't listen" if he "has to look".

Private OT said that it was best to 'train' him to give fleeting glances when he feels comfortable and to explain that us poor souls without the benefit of his type of brain only think peole are listening when they look at us. Make him think that the problem is ours and he has to humour us.

J's 9 by the way so you may need to adapt this.

Hope this helps

Yorkee Thu 21-Apr-05 14:28:09

When we went to BIBIC, we were told that the worst thing we could do was constantly say 'look at me', mainly because when a child with AS looks at your face, they are concentrating on the movements your face makes, rather than the conversation. Apparently, the older the child gets, the more comfortable they become with their own speech and understanding, then hopefully, the eye contact will improve. It should come because they WANT to, rather than us asking for it.......

Shame we'd spent 2 years asking for it before we learnt that!! Anyway, it worked for us! We don't ask for the eye contact, and seem to get it more now!! Then again, we do play a lot of games with our eyes, so I think that has helped as well...

coppertop Thu 21-Apr-05 14:42:54

My eye contact is awful. I can't explain why but it makes me feel really uncomfortable to keep looking right into someone's eyes. Ds1 often looks as though he's daydreaming when he is being spoken to but will remember exactly what you said to him.

macwoozy Thu 21-Apr-05 17:32:24

Well, thanks all for your ideas, that'll keep me going for a while. I feel quite positive about this now, knowing that there are ways of helping him, and reckon I might get some good results, even if it might take me a while. I'll bear in mind what you said Yorkee. Cheers all.

dinosaur Thu 21-Apr-05 17:34:06

Coppertop - same here!

Davros Thu 21-Apr-05 17:36:17

Lots of good info and advice here. One thing about people with AS/ASD is they often have peripheral vision or, if that's not technically correct, they look at things without "looking" at them iyswim. If you point your eyes towards the TV but think about the chair that's to the left that is what you are looking at. It feels quiet strange. I actually think that our requirement for eye contact is just that, and that often our children are looking at something, it just doesn't seem like it to our standards. I know that DS can seem like he hasn't looked at something at all and if you then ask him to touch something specific he can do it without looking again. I also think the uncomfortable feeling of eye contact makes sense, that's not uncommon I suppose but this may be a more extreme version of it. I don't see any harm in trying some strategies to see if you can improve it. My DS has got very good eye contact (with me anyway) but we never "taught" it, I didn't even know that people did, but he had almost no eye contact when he was little. For him I think working on general interaction etc helped and he started to find that he quite liked other people (adults).

maryz Fri 22-Apr-05 21:24:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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