Ask an Autistic #21 – What About Eye Contact?



Why do autistic people avoid eye contact? Why is eye contact considered important? Does eye contact hurt autistics? Should I insist that my autistic child make eye contact? Answers to all of these questions and more in this week’s episode of Ask an Autistic!

Further reading on eye contact in autistic people:
http://ollibean.com/2014/10/28/autism-and-eye-contact/
http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/?pageId=472
http://loveexplosions.net/2013/01/30/the-cost-of-compliance-is-unreasonable/

Studies quoted:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1348/026151005X49872/abstract
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/how-to-tell-when-someone-s-lying-202644

My blog: http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com
My facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/amythestschaber

The track used in this video was “Like Music” by pheraph
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Help us caption & translate this video!

http://amara.org/v/GVKx/

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36 thoughts on “Ask an Autistic #21 – What About Eye Contact?

  1. Listening to one of the people in my cohort yammering on about how "eye contact is SUCH an important life skill" and treating it like it was quite possibly THE most important life skill…..while not making eye contact with any of us at any point. Being part Native American myself, I grew up being taught not to make direct eye contact, which has led to some conflict with that person when I try to argue that hey, maybe that's not a universal thing.

    When I started practicing aikido, the instructors actually "trained" some of us out of making eye contact at least during practice because it's considered rude to do towards your upperclassmen and instructors, and with your opponent, you shouldn't do it because they might use it to intimidate you which can prevent you from properly doing the technique. Because I made less than many of my classmates, I actually didn't have to work as hard to do it the way they said to.

    (Also, really? Eye contact as a "life skill?" Even if it counted, I'm sure I could think of a few that are more important.)

  2. this girl in second grade who always picked on me always told people that i was a liar because i disliked eye contact and would blush when i made eye contact because it made me so uncomfortable

  3. I wish I could print the transcript of this video and send it to my parents and just, have some copies to hand out freely whenever people give me trouble for my lack of eye contact. Hearing this comforts me so much, bc when people force me to make/maintain eye contact I can't hear or pay attention to anything they say and have such a hard time bringing it up when they call me out on it. I felt really broken because of that like something was wrong with me specifically, and learning about autism spectrum and hearing you talk about your experience with eye contact lines up with mine. I always have back-and-forths with myself over whether or not I could actually be autistic even with all of the evidence that has been around since I was a child (and a few clinicians saying they see a strong case for it when they've evaluated me), but this really solidifies it for me. This is one of the things I feel isolates me so much, but thank you for sharing your experience and showing me that I'm not alone!

  4. I'm in my 40's. When I need to draw some detailed information from my memory or calculate something complicated I also avert my gaze. I used to do it by moving my gaze upwards and closing my eyes if it took a lot of concentration. I did this until my late 30's until someone explained to me how strange it was. Then I started moving my eyes down and furrowing my brow as this is more socially acceptable.

  5. I just wanted to say thank you so much for making these video’s!! I literally send family members and friends to these video’s to try to explain why I behave and just am the way I am!! I can’t tell you how much help I’ve gotten from being able to send people here!! Just felt like I should tell you how incredibly important these video’s really are!!

  6. she described how I feel sometimes with eye contact, looking into a very bright light. But I don't feel like that all the time. So I'm wondering if it's physical, psychological, possibly cultural. It seems like the only time I would look people in the eyes, when I was younger, was when I really liked a girl, or if I was very angry at someone. I didn't really realize eye contact was an issue until a co-worker kind of frustratingly said, "why don't you look me in the eyes?!". I've made an effort to make eye contact in conversation, but it definitely doesn't come naturally. Sometimes I strain myself to look longer than comfortable, which I think throws an uncomfortable vide to the other person, and then things just get awkward, lol.

  7. I avoid eye contact in person but I can look at a person's eyes when they are on video because the person is away from me. I have social anxiety and PTSD. Eye contact is very threatening to me plus I can't listen. Once I was forced to make eye contact and I became extremely distressed. It was traumatic for me.

  8. I hate making eye contact! One time when I was at the hospital my doctor thought I was scared of my case manager because I wouldn't make eye contact with him. I had to explain that no I had Autism and making eye contact is hard for me.

  9. 'There are lots of blind people that don't make eye contact and they have friends' or something like that, I have a blind friend that is scarily great at eye contact when we are sitting and talking

  10. Thankfully people don't insist on it as much in Germany, I was "only" forced to once by some idiotic teacher that thought she was some sort of hero/martyr in "helping", but really all she would do is use "that" tone to shout/talk to me about her absolutely delusional interpretations of me ("Saying that you don't think you're better than everyone isn't going to fool me!" "Stop flip flopping between being a narcissistic bitch and pretending to have awful self esteem, you SHOULD be somewhere in between!!!") and even with the whole looking at the nose trick I just couldn't.

    Now, how bad it is depends on who the person is, my little sister and such I can actually look into the eyes, if not for very long, people that seem threatening I usually just can't look AT, period.

    Interestingly this one would probably tell my mother quite a bit, I haven't really looked directly at her in years…

  11. What do you feel about eye contact when the autistic person is requesting or addressing? We have never forced eye contact while listening, however, we do tell our daughter to make sure she sees the persons face if she is requesting something or asking something of another person so they know she is talking to them.

  12. With me, I could perceive what people were thinking or feeling about me, their attitudes and feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment with me. When I was really young I hid behind my parents because I was actually afraid of some people and saw them as threatening. It was as if I could see their inner most being through the expression in their eyes. This extended beyond eye contact to fear of being photographed by cameras or being stared at by others.

  13. Eye contact is painfully scary, because, my mom understands how I feel now I almost never look at her at all when I talk to her. She's fine with that and it's very stress relieving that I don't have to. ^^;

  14. Person : What do you see when you look into my eyes?
    Me : Nothing. I just see eyeballs.
    Person : But how can you tell—
    Me : I just like to study a lot of psychology that makes up for it.

    Life tip : Read lots of psychology articles, find one of those free online courses on psychology, or get into a class. You need this shit if you’re a human being at all. If any supernatural or extraterrestrial intelligence sees this, then consider it How to Human 101.

  15. I've always been able to make eye contact though I'm also looking at everything everywhere while talking to someone. I started wearing sunglasses (preferably with a reflective lens) to mask where I was looking. I loved that it made people as uncomfortable talking to me (I'm also an 6'5" truck shaped ogre) as I was talking to them. Me because autism (hooray) and them because they couldn't even see that I had eyes. Take that normies!
    When it comes down to it I can also "fake it" really good. Passing was an art form for so long. Mostly until I found out (I was 33/34) that I was in fact autistic. I no longer felt the need to "pass" and the extra stress it had on me because we're not CHOOSING any of this. You don't like it, that's your problem since we aren't hurting ANYONE.
    Either way. Love the vids even when they're many years old.

  16. I don't have any kind of official diagnosis of ASD, or anything like that. My whole life, though, at least as long as I can remember, I've had a very strong aversion to making eye contact.
    It makes me physically uncomfortable, in a way I can't really put into words. Nobody in my family has ever noticed, though. I think it's because I cope so well. Because I know eye contact is virtually expected in our society, I've "trained" myself to fake it. If I'm talking to someone, I'll keep looking in their general direction, and just try to stare "through" them, so to speak. It still makes me extremely uncomfortable, but generally gets me by without anybody catching on.

  17. eye contact gets me kinda dizzy… and also, i tend to pay more attention when i have atypical eye contact. Funny, i also have ADHD.

    oh… another thing. you see, I stim byopening-closing my legs. for obvious reasons, my parents don't like that particular stim. i live in a Latinx American country… pedophilia is… not so very well controlled. What shall I do?

  18. I don't recall avoiding eye contact, I do have some medical record of a diagnosis of Autism, but, I don't recall avoiding eye contact now or from the past, I just look into peoples eyes, just to be simple!

    If you would explain what eye contact I make because I am in fact Autistic, but I don't have known issues with looking into peoples eyes, to some people like me, there would be a small issue to no issue with eye contact, wired, isn't it?

  19. I'm always looking at people's mouth when they talk because it helps me understand what they say, it's less stressful and I'm prosopagnosic and teeth/smile, along with hair, are the two things that helps me recognize people.

  20. When I first was in health class in middle school, they had a whole week or so dedicated to interpersonal relationships. One of the classes was spent on listening and how to portray to the other person that you're listening. I participated sort of. I looked at my practicing partners in the face at the forehead or nose, but the whole time I was wondering in my head why we are learning how to look like we're listening. I was also wondering how anyone could look at someone else in the eyes and listen to what they're saying.

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