How Does A Speech-Language Pathologist Help Child With Communication Disorders Adults With Asperger’s – How to Manage Eye Contact

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Adults With Asperger’s – How to Manage Eye Contact

Difficulty making eye contact

One of the key signs of Asperger’s syndrome is a difference in the use of eye contact during communication. This seemingly trivial variation can cause huge conflicts and misunderstandings when dealing with the neurotypical world. When you look someone in the eye, when you look away, does the lack of eye contact indicate dislike or dishonesty, does eye contact that is too long indicate a threat or a seduction? A lot is expressed and read in a seemingly simple glance. The confusion is compounded by the fact that different cultures have different rules for eye contact, and the rules in families may be different from those for friends, acquaintances or strangers. What is praised as “paying attention” for some cultures is then criticized in others as “not being respectful”.

Because people use eye contact

There are reasons that the neurotypical world uses eye contact: as an indication of openness, interest or attention, and also to transmit less friendly messages such as cancellation or dominance. Checking in with the listener’s eye contact is a way to make sure you still get your point across and don’t confuse, bore or offend the listener. While it may be considered impolite to interrupt when confused, a simple squint conveys the message clearly.

For those with Asperger’s syndrome or other autism spectrum disorders, eye contact can be very uncomfortable. Just go online and read some of the blogs of adults with Asperger syndrome and you will find great discussions about how eye contact can be threatening, distracting, or overwhelming.

How to manage problems with eye contact

So, what can be done about problems with eye contact? It would be nice if everyone recognized that eye contact is a trivial matter, and people are judged by their words and actions instead. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Unless they are clearly affected by Asperger’s, most people probably don’t even know what it is. (When I tell acquaintances that I specialize in coaching and therapy for people with Asperger’s, the first question is usually “What is Asperger’s?”) I don’t think neurotypicals are deliberately bigoted or judgmental, but reading messages non-verbal is an instinct and behavior throughout life, even if it is mostly unconscious.

Of course, you always have the option of doing nothing, just following your natural behaviors. If you are not suffering from unwanted consequences due to lack of eye contact, then that could be the obvious solution.

But, if you have social or professional problems, I think the solution comes down to a compromise and a careful consideration of the situation. In The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood suggests that adults find a way to explain to others why their eye contact is different. (p. 89) He suggested stating that distancing helps the speaker to concentrate, or asking the listener to let him know if he gets bored. These direct methods are probably most useful for those people you know quite well and those you will be interacting with a lot.

Some online sites suggest faking eye contact by looking just above the eyes, forehead or eyebrows. I think this is an intriguing idea, but you need to practice first. Find a neurotypical friend and see how it works. (Not your mom! She’s used to that way of behaving.) Most neurotypicals have an uncomfortable sense when body language is different, even if they may not be able to explain precisely what’s wrong. . Don’t try to fake eye contact for the first time in a job interview or a first date.

A last option is to try to learn neurotypical eye gaze behaviors. This is a big, time-consuming project and will probably require training from some sort of professional and a lot of practice. I suggest finding a qualified therapist, a speech therapist, or a coach to understand all the technical details and then a neurotypical friend close to practice.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the matter of eye contact, only many compromises. In the end, the people you care about the most will probably get your message, whether or not you look them in the eye.

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