If your child avoids making eye contact with you – welcome to the spectrum family. A common occurrence with children who are on the spectrum – avoiding eye contact. Not only in conversation – but Tucker will barely look at a camera. His sister just keeps smiling and smiling and smiling. I keep saying, ‘Look at me, look at me, look at me.’
Often I have to stop looking through my camera and hope that my hand(s) remain steady enough to get the shot.
My lovely husband surprised me with an advanced camera that will take rapid fire shots…so finally I am able to get pictures of him looking at me (albeit 1 out of 9 shots).
Conversation is tough. I often remind him to look at me. This is one of those characteristics that really hasn’t improved much. It has…just not much.
The personal struggle that I have is that having a conversation is often difficult enough that requiring eye contact will shut it down. That is the last thing that you want, we MUST keep them talking. My mom used to tell me to ‘pick my battles.’ Well, I’m not picking this one. I know he is listening by his response. So, when I get a chance I stare into those hazel eyes of his – I soak it in. I soak it up, because I don’t get to see them often – those love-filled, sweet, and caring eyes.
I recently read ‘The Reason I Jump.’ The book was written by a 13-year-old boy with Autism. It’s actually a bit like this blog – full of 1-2 pages thoughts. It’s a VERY fast read at 176 pages, and I strongly suggest it for anyone wanting to learn more about autism. It’s fascinating. When I reread the book, Tucker and I read it together. For the most part, he agreed with everything, especially the portion about eye contact. The author writes that he doesn’t make eye contact because he is too busy ‘seeing’ the words. Once he ‘sees’ the words, he can make sense out of them because they become visual images. If that isn’t absolutely fascinating, I don’t know what is!
So, it makes sense. Tucker is forming and looking at the words in the sky instead of looking at me. That is why he is still able to participate in the conversation.
This is another opportunity to advocate for our children.
Tell their peers, all of them.
Tell other adults, all of them.
Tell their Pastors, all of them.
Tell their coaches, all of them.
Tell their teachers, all of them.
Tell family members, all of them.
Tell anyone who listen.
Tell these folks that these children are not being rude. In fact, not making eye-contact enables them to participate in conversation. Tell the dentist, tell the doctor, tell everyone and anyone that comes into contact with your child. Why? As neurotypical adults (what is that?!?!? be sure to read tomorrow), others may think these children are just being rude, inconsiderate, or even telling a lie because they avoid eye contact.
This is simply not true. It is just part of this weird, wonderful thing we call the spectrum.