Eye contact is very important part of non-verbal communication. Most of us use eye contact during social interactions. Why eye contact is so important?
Mainly, eye contact helps people communicate their interests in another person. Often, we use eye contact to distinguish and react to important signals from another person. The problem arises is when one doesn’t even “look you in the eye”, it can be interpreted as rude and ignorant behavior.
Why children with autism can’t maintain eye contact?
This question is very common from people who are not familiar with autism. Until now, research and clinical practice are not certain why, and answers are often contradicting. Until research is in process and clinical trials are taking place, it is recommended to teach your child how to make and maintain eye contact if child shows interest. Process of maintaining eye contact is very stressful for adult with autism, twice as hard for a child. There are many articles and books where people with autism are describing their suffering when someone was forcing them to make eye contact. Many times, they say it distracted them even more, and they couldn’t concentrate on the conversation, just because of demand for the eye contact from interlocutor. For people with autism, it is much easier to carry on the conversation, learn, work and interact with others, without eye contact.
When choosing whether to teach a child with autism to maintain eye contact, parent has to take in consideration the stress level of the child, will it make child feel better about themselves or opposite, make child lose their train of thought, etc.
Alternatives to eye contact.
If your child does not like eye contact, there are ways to do it without stressing a child out.
- Ask your child to turn his/her body complete toward the other person.
- Comment on certain parts of conversation, to indicate interest.
- Teach your child to communicate to another person:” Please don’t pay attention to the fact that I am not looking at your, I am listening very carefully”.
Each state has variety of organizations and community groups that can help your child to socialize.