”You can’t have Autism because you make eye contact”.
This is probably one of the biggest myths surrounding Autism.
Although it is true that it is a common trait amongst the Autism population,
bad eye contact is neither exclusive to, or a hallmark to the condition.
In fact, it isn’t part of the diagnostic criteria.
It is, however, a skill that can be developed.
A skill that can be taught.
Many a time I have said to my children, “Look at me when I am talking to you.”
Many, many, a time I have had it said to me “your child will not look at me when I am talking.”
But imagine that everytime I look in your eyes it hurts.
Not just physical pain.
Intense pain from every sense.
Imagine you can hear every tiny sound; the buzzing of the phone charging lead, the humming of the lights, the swaying of the trees outside….
Imagine being so sensitive to smell that the world is overpowering….
Imagine your skin is hurting from the clothes that you didn’t want to wear….
….they try to look into someones eyes.
Try to concentrate on what they are saying.
My girl can maintain small amounts of eye contact with people close to her, but struggles with anyone else.
Her eyes are constantly moving, unable to fix on any point.
Flitting from one place to another, taking in so much information.
Too many distractions.
How can you concentrate?
Fact; You can have Autism even if you can make eye contact, be it fleeting or held.
You can learn.
You can train yourself or be taught.
You can learn coping strategies.
I know people with Autism who have taught themselves to look at a point just above someones ear, to avoid eye contact, but to appear to be interested in the conversation.
Ultimately that is why it is so important….
…that thing that translates as ‘if you are not looking at me, you are not listening’.
…the thing that translates as you being rude…
We know that this isn’t the case, but this is what we are taught.
I know people on the spectrum who have amazing eye contact.
I know people on the spectrum who CAN have amazing eye contact…mainly whenthey are engagingin a conversation about their most treasured obsession.
Then everything becomes exciting!
Everything is about them!
Everything around them becomes silent and still because their obsessions are their world.