Why is it so hard to look them in the eye?

There is an ongoing debate about why people with autism avoid eye contact.  There is data to support both, but as this behavior emerges very early, it’s important to look at data from preverbal children to understand the origins of changes in eye contact.  Many scientists also feel that avoiding eye contact snowballs over the lifespan and deprives people with autism from developing social skills.  Infants don’t even know why they avoid eye contact so at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, researchers are using eye tracking technology to answer this question.  The findings have clear implications for early intervention strategies.

2 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to look them in the eye?

  1. My opinion is that this is a really bad research design. You cannot assume that eye contact with a person in a video and eye contact with a person in real life is the same thing. Generalizing this is very irresponsible.

    You also cannot assume that since they are making eye contact right now that that means it is ALWAYS not aversive. Maybe it is aversive sometimes and not others. Maybe it is dependent on the person or environmental factors.

    Also, just because they are not making eye contact that doesn’t mean they are not picking up on any social information. Maybe they have other ways of getting that information that we don’t know about.

    As the mother of an autistic toddler, I find this research to be very disappointing. The fact that the Autism Science Foundation thinks this research should influence treatment and intervention is also disappointing.

    Autistic people deserve better than this.

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