How to Improve Eye Contact in Children with Autism?

How to Improve Eye Contact in Children with Autism?

Improve Eye Contact in Children with Autism, We get a huge chunk of our information about the world from what we see. If you want your child to learn faster, then you have to help your child look more. Speech, social skills, potty training—everything goes faster when you have improved eye contact. Every greeting is a challenge to parents of ASD children. While children may have perfect vision, they simply will not look at the person they are greeting. Without any reminder, they usually look around or look only for a split second. Adults sustain eye contact out of courtesy, as well as to send out information. We want to know whether we are sharing the same feeling if people are paying attention to us, or the same things as we are. Children with ASD have difficulties comprehending non- verbal communications and take no notice of the thoughts and feelings of others.

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Here’s what you can do to get more eye contact:

  • Positioning is very important to encourage eye contact. You want it to be easy for your child to look at you.
  • Put the object up to your nose. Your child may grab an object without looking because you constantly hold it in the same place. Force your child to make eye contact by holding the object right on the bridge of your nose between your eyes, two inches in front of your face.
  • When your child looks at you, celebrate it!
  • When your child wants something from you, ask her to look at you before you give it to her. It’s okay if she doesn’t look, and you’ll still give her the object in the end, but you have to ask for it. Most important you have to show her that when she looks at you, she gets things faster than when she doesn’t look at you.
  • Model appropriate eye contact with your child; always turn to look at your child when you talk to him/her.
  • Bring object/toy up to your eye level to encourage your child to look. Initially, he/she may only look at the toy, but gradually some eye contact will emerge.
  • If your child is cooperative and understands what you mean, you could say “Look at me.”
  • Sometimes gently touching your child’s chin can be a reminder to look, BUT DO NOT DRAG YOUR CHILD’S FACE ROUND to make them look.
  • Stand in front of your child when he/she is on the swing/rocking horse etc. Occasionally stop the swing and say “Ready, set” – wait a few moments in the hope that they may look at you and then immediately say “Go.” As they turn to look at you more readily, you can encourage a vocalization for “Go.”
  • Blowing bubbles, feathers or balloons in the air and then waiting, is often a successful way of eliciting eye contact.
  • Use a variety of ways to gain your child’s eye contact. Do not constantly nag him/her by saying “Look at me, look at me.”
  • Some children feel more comfortable when engaged in a gross motor activity, e.g. on the swing, having a tickle. The child may give spontaneous eye contact during these activities.
  • Torch activities: follow the light along the wall. Cover torch with different colors to make it interesting.
  • Toys that move on their own. Use remote-controlled toys. Pull back and let go so eyes follow the object. Roll a ball, extend range and length of rolling.
  • Throw at target activities like darts, bowling, and catch.
  • Praise and Acknowledge all spontaneous eye contact.
  • If the child likes books, looking at the pictures can be great. Pop-up books can be used if the child is not as interested in books as these are often more interesting.
  • Start with their special interest using quick puzzles where they just need to look quickly to complete the puzzle, then build up.
  • DVDs/TV shows can teach looking and scanning.

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Whichever method above that you utilize, be sure to encourage, acknowledge and reward your child for looking at you. Do things like widening your eyes, smile, and praise such as, “I’m glad you are looking at me” or “Oh, good! Now I can see your eyes.” The more your child sees the nonverbal cues which dominate social interactions, the stronger social bonds will be with others.

Improve Eye Contact in Children with Autism

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Sayee Deshpande
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