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ediself
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23 Oct 2010, 4:45 pm

haha saoirse star you make it seem so easy! i can tell you the eye colour of every person working at my kid's school , the one of the guy who came to repair my heating system, and everyone i ever met lol........
but ask me what they talked about.....they said something about me looking uncomfortable ? nah that was the conversation in my head :P



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23 Oct 2010, 5:24 pm

It's easy because it's happening unconsciously.

It's like, the brain sees these different things, including eye color, facial movements, etc. And a lot of processing gets done subconsciously. And only some of it gets passed onto our conscious mind. And even some of the processing of responses, where to look when, happens subconsciously. No conscious thought required.

I think what happens with those who are autistic is, more stuff gets through to consciousness (and can thus distract our attention), and less of the subconscious processing happens.

There's good and bad things about a brain that works that way (that is, the autistic way). Sometimes it's good to notice details others miss. Other times, noticing details is distracting.

Some of us can also go the other way and hyperfocus. Block everything out, except what we are dealing with.


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24 Oct 2010, 8:14 am

I am not too good at making eye contact with people and tend to look at their eyes for a moment now, a moment a bit later rather than for any length at time. I'd say that my average eye contact with people doesn't last longer than maybe half a second.

On the other hand, I have no problem at all with making eye contact with animals, even those that I am not familiar with. Of course, this is limited to animals having "proper" eyes. Spiders' eyes for example just look too different to qualify.

When my dog misbehaves, I will often remind him of his place by making eye contact. Dogs don't like that. I can even stare him down if he was a very bad dog, something I could never do with a human.

In fact, I make eye contact with animals so readily that I have to remind myself that dogs that I am not familiar with might dislike it and show a somewhat hostile reaction. Not looking a dog into the eyes is more or less a concious effort for me, whereas it is exactly the other way round with a human.

Now, what I am trying to say, if others here feel like that about eye contact with animals, maybe you could use this phenomenon for your work with autistic children, saoirse_starr. If it is generally easier to make eye contact with animals than with humans, that might be a less distressing first step and making eye contact with humans might be the next step.

Of course you would have to chose an appropiate species of animal. Dogs would be a rather poor choice, because many of them might react by growling or worse, thereby frightening the child involved. But maybe bunnys would work. They're cute, harmless and I don't think they react aggressively to eye contact.



ediself
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24 Oct 2010, 9:56 am

that's a great idea , fluffydog!! animals could help. but i have to say i never had an eye contact problem with dogs, you just know when to look away.......and they tend to appreciate my eye contact if it makes sense. animals are just easier to connect with. but a bunny? i mean no offense to bunnies lol, but they don't convey much messages in their eyes....maybe i should meet more bunnies but from my limited experience, they're kind of hard to connect with. i'd say dogs. or cats,cats have a more approachable way of communicating, they won't jump on the autistic kid to lick his whole face.....could be better.they tend to get more annoyed with eye contact though and could get crancky. maybe a puppy would do the job, or a motherly female dog. :D



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24 Oct 2010, 10:15 am

Well, bunnies have their eyes placed on the sides of their head, which makes for a different setup than humans have. I agree that an animal with the eyes facing forward would be a better choice.

And dogs and cats do have the advantage that they are living in quite a lot of households, so chances are good that the child in question is already somewhat familiar with them.

My personal first choice of animal would be a dog, too. They simply are the most available and cooperative species, I think. Most dogs like humans, just like many humans like dogs. A carefully chosen dog with a peacefull personality might be a great helper for a child.

But you still have to consider the following point: any animal that is used for any kind of therapy must be kept properly and for some species that means quiet a lot of social contact. Dogs are one of the pet species that need a lot of attention and love. And you have to spend a lot of time with a dog before you can be certain of its reactions and trust it NOT to turn hostile when stared at for too long (or at least only to turn hostile to a degree that can be controlled without endangering or frightening the child involved...).

I do not know whether saoirse_starr already has a pet or could even keep one if it proved helpfull for the therapy. Maybe a dog would require just too much time to take care of or there is not enough space in the flat to properly house a dog. I proposed bunnies as an alternative, easy-to-keep animal that is of a size that can be handled easily.

Or maybe a dog could be used for the therapy that is owned by another person and that is only present for certain sessions with the child? That would easily take care of the whole keeping-a-pet discussion.

If a dog were to be chosen, I would propose one of medium size, about 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 inches) at the withers. (A smaller dog might be more appropiate for very young children, though.) I'd say to use a dog of roughly this size because some children like to touch animals, but are a bit clumsy about it. A medium-sized dog can easyily take a goodnatured nudge that would stagger a miniature-sized dog.



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26 Oct 2010, 11:25 pm

saoirse_starr wrote:
How do you all feel about making eye contact? Were you taught to make eye contact as children? Do you think it was a good or a bad thing? How do you feel about the fact that so much emphasis is put on teaching children to make eye contact? How does it feel for you when you make eye contact with someone?

If it turns out that eye contact is a good thing then I'm happy to be proved wrong - but I'd rather it was because people actually with autism told me so, rather than professional "experts".


First off, thank you for asking us. I know "experts" are just trying to help, but it seems that at times they misinterpret intention when it comes to Aspie behaviors.

I have a very difficult time with eye contact while speaking if I'm also trying to formulate my thoughts. I don't know why, but my brain just doesn't work if I'm looking at someone. All while growing up, my mom told me that I needed to make eye contact, not in a forceful way, but in a "this will help you socially" way. Unfortunately, time hasn't changed anything. If I'm trying to think of what to say, especially if I'm explaining something, and I force myself to make eye contact, I often forget what I was going to say and then panic because I don't have anything intelligible to say. I tend to look at people when they are talking and then look down when I start talking.

I continue to try to work on eye contact, and while I agree that teaching children to make eye contact is important, I don't think it is the most important social tool. In my opinion, learning the give-and-take of conversation and how to respond appropriately are both much more important.


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saoirse_starr
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27 Oct 2010, 3:21 am

Thank you everyone for your insightful replies! I got into another argument with a colleague today over the importance of eye contact and I found it very frustrating, so I can only imagine what it must be like to be on your side of the fence. I keep being told that eye contact is important "because how else do I interact with children/know they're paying attention?" Even in five minutes search online I found articles talking about how children with autism concentrate better and have more meaningful interaction when not making eye contact. I really don't understand why we keep pushing it as though it's the only indicator someone is paying attention despite everything saying that it's painful/uncomfortable/distracting. Anyway, thanks again, I really appreciate so many people taking the time to share their point of view with me.



Chama
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27 Oct 2010, 4:11 am

I think it can take away focus on helping children with REAL necessary skills.

I've never had my lack of eye contact questioned, so I hardly noticed. I do glance at a person's face from time to time when they're speaking, but I always find something else interesting to look at... like my fingernails, ha ha...

The feelings eye contact causes seems to be a little different for everyone. For me, it's distracting because now I am thinking about their eyes and their face, and not their words. It also feels very invading -- it seems the same as if someone tried to have a conversation half an inch away from your face.

You know, in many Asian cultures (I know Japanese for sure), prolonged eye contact during conversation is actually considered very rude. It's an invasion of privacy. I feel the same way about eye contact, although it wasn't taught to me, that's just how it feels.



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27 Oct 2010, 10:42 am

saoirse_starr wrote:
I keep being told that eye contact is important "because how else do I interact with children/know they're paying attention?"


I can answer your colleague's questions:
First, clearly, whatever you may think, you are not very capable of interacting with autistic / Asperger's children.
Second, you know they're not paying attention if they're looking at you.

:lol:

Edited to add: "you", in this case, is your colleague. I appreciate your own efforts, and certainly mean nothing at all against you. But I found your colleague's absurd questions annoying. While you do seem to possess a "theory of mind" which encompasses those of us on the spectrum, from an AS point of view, your colleague is certainly lacking in theory of mind. :wink:


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PangeLingua
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27 Oct 2010, 10:51 am

theWanderer wrote:
Second, you know they're not paying attention if they're looking at you.


:lol:

It's true ...



Kaspie
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27 Oct 2010, 12:32 pm

theWanderer wrote:
Second, you know they're not paying attention if they're looking at you.


Totally true!


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Jediscraps
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27 Oct 2010, 12:32 pm

The first counselor I saw thought I only had social anxiety disorder but had me draw when I would see her because when I first saw her I'd look down to my left and rub the fabric of my jeans. Through out the time I'd tell her face to face counseling and challenging me felt hostile to me. It helped me to learn to better talk and connect somewhat with someone though. Eventually, after a long time, she got irritated since I wasn't looking at her when I talked and she'd tell me to look her in the eyes. It eventually ended pretty badly but it was because I thought she was trying to make me into someone who I'm not.

The counselor I'm seeing now is fine with me mostly not looking at him and he believes I am on the autistic spectrum and also has experience working with those on the spectrum. I often can listen and think better when I am not having to think about looking at someone's eyes on a regular basis. He doesn't come across to me as being hostile and continually challenging me. He also encourages me not to worry about being "normal".

It's confusing to me because a lot of people here say they can't ever look someone in the eyes but I can such as places like stores or minor work related things or minor/shallower greetings/talking.

It seems the more in depth or intense a conversation gets the less eye contact I may do. I often think and listen better when I'm not having to think about continually being concerned what proper eye contact the person wants or needs. I often look down when I talk or listen. If I'm in an argument I guess I'll often do even less eye contact to the point where I am closing my eyes or scrunching my whole face shut.

I actually talk best when I'm doing things with my hands or where the other person is doing something where they aren't directly looking at me or the lighting is dim.



Maolcolm
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27 Oct 2010, 2:16 pm

saoirse_starr wrote:
The girl I was talking about, for example, doesn't talk or even acknowledge people at all right now, and I can see why they think eye contact might be an important first step, but it's still not what I think is important.


I think it's a last step, not a first step. And should never be forced.

Insisting on eye contact is perhaps as much a "first step' for an autistic person as aggressively insisting on 'making out' with someone you just met two minutes ago - and who is unwilling - is a "first step" in any kind of relationship or friendship or in building trust.

I'm not saying they're totally analogous. What I'm illustrating is that they are both highly inappropriate and highly distressing to the one so coerced. They are both effectively, assaults, and can be experienced that way. The attitude of some of your co-workers that you described horrifies me.



Last edited by Maolcolm on 27 Oct 2010, 3:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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27 Oct 2010, 2:39 pm

After reading what most everyone has already said, I doubt there is much else to add, but I thought if you are gathering information on the subject, then having as much information as possible would be helpful.

I know as a child I would get into trouble for not making extended eye contact. I would try to make eye contact but my eyes would dart away quickly, upsetting the teachers. Later I learned to fake eye contact by looking for dark circles under the eye, then the orbital eye socket, eye brows. I also learned how to talk without making eye contact, such as having to pause and look away to think or gather my thoughts.

As for what it's like, that's a bit tricky.
Imagine that when you look someone in the eyes, you feel a fine rod of graphite extending from your eyes into their eyes. You can feel the graphite in your eyes extending out, and you can only imagine what the pain would be if you were to look away. The snapping of the graphite will surely bring you intense pain, you can't even blink. You have to wait for the other person to break eye contact. A few moments will last an eternity, whatever they say will be lost. Every ounce of concentration is on not breaking that fine rod of graphite extending from your eyes. Your eyes begin to water, you start to get antsy, your jaw clenches. It is an eternity of hell in just a few seconds.

Mind you this is just my reaction to eye contact and how I have analyzed it from experimentation on my own.

I do wonder what NT's experience when they make eye contact. Is it just like looking at anything else? Is it for them just like looking at a book or the TV?



ediself
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27 Oct 2010, 2:44 pm

SteamPowerDev wrote:
After reading what most everyone has already said, I doubt there is much else to add, but I thought if you are gathering information on the subject, then having as much information as possible would be helpful.

I know as a child I would get into trouble for not making extended eye contact. I would try to make eye contact but my eyes would dart away quickly, upsetting the teachers. Later I learned to fake eye contact by looking for dark circles under the eye, then the orbital eye socket, eye brows. I also learned how to talk without making eye contact, such as having to pause and look away to think or gather my thoughts.

As for what it's like, that's a bit tricky.
Imagine that when you look someone in the eyes, you feel a fine rod of graphite extending from your eyes into their eyes. You can feel the graphite in your eyes extending out, and you can only imagine what the pain would be if you were to look away. The snapping of the graphite will surely bring you intense pain, you can't even blink. You have to wait for the other person to break eye contact. A few moments will last an eternity, whatever they say will be lost. Every ounce of concentration is on not breaking that fine rod of graphite extending from your eyes. Your eyes begin to water, you start to get antsy, your jaw clenches. It is an eternity of hell in just a few seconds.

Mind you this is just my reaction to eye contact and how I have analyzed it from experimentation on my own.

I do wonder what NT's experience when they make eye contact. Is it just like looking at anything else? Is it for them just like looking at a book or the TV?


from what i gathered here, in answer to your last question, apparently NTs look in the general direction of the eyes, but when they say eye contact they mean "keeping an eye on the muscles surrounding the eyes so as to know how the person is feeling", they don't really stay pupil to pupil as we tend to do when we learn eye contact. i think we were all mislead by the "look me in the eye"we got from day 1. that's, once again, not what they mean.



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27 Oct 2010, 2:48 pm

ediself wrote:
from what i gathered here, in answer to your last question, apparently NTs look in the general direction of the eyes, but when they say eye contact they mean "keeping an eye on the muscles surrounding the eyes so as to know how the person is feeling", they don't really stay pupil to pupil as we tend to do when we learn eye contact. i think we were all mislead by the "look me in the eye"we got from day 1. that's, once again, not what they mean.

seriously? well, now. this explains a lot. i thought i was supposed to look directly into the centre of the person's eye.


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