Encouraging Eye Contact May Disturb Thinking in Children with Autism

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[Source My Health News Daily]

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Children with autism look away from faces when thinking, especially about a challenging problem — just as people without the condition do, according to a recent study.

Avoiding eye contact is a common behavior of people with autism, and children with the condition are sometimes trained and encouraged to meet others’ gazes.

But the new findings show that looking away sometimes serves a purpose, and encouraging eye contact can interfere with a child’s thoughts.

“Although social skills training is important in encouraging eye contact with children with autism,” the new study shows that gaze aversion is helpful in concentrating on difficult tasks, said study researcher Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, an associate dean at Northumbria University in England.

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2 Responses to Encouraging Eye Contact May Disturb Thinking in Children with Autism

  1. cindy gerber says:

    We found this to be true with our 2 yr. old son who was diagnosed with Autism. After much speech & ABA therapy, he is doing very well & forming sentences now! But, when he was first learning to talk he would look away as he was trying to form the words which was a difficult task for him. His therapist told us not to ask him to look at us when we were trying to have him form words because it might be difficult for him to focus on both our eyes & the words. She was correct! And now that the words are coming more easily to him, his eye contact is greatly improved! Time & patience :O)

  2. I find clinically that patients many patients look away when they are thinking; however, many patients will look away because they have a vision problem that is interfering with their ability to have good eye contact. Often a patient who has an underlying binocular vision problem such as convergence insufficiency will have poor eye contact and need to look away to think about what someone is saying. Many patients with autism have poor eye contact and many also have vision problems that contribute to this behavior. Too much effort is needed to maintain eye contact that they can not process what is being said. More information on vision and patients with autism can be found at http://www.visionhelp.com or http://www.covd.org.