Are You Sure You Know Why Autistic Children Avoid Eye Contact?


It was previously thought by many that the difficulty some autistic individuals have with looking others in the eyes was a signal of indifference. A new study, however, is throwing cold water on that idea by suggesting that not looking others in the eyes is a way of limiting over stimulation.

In this issue, we’ll talk about the study and its findings.

The Study at a Glance

According to the study authors, who published their findings in Scientific Reports, many autistic people reported discomfort and stress when making eye contact with others. This feeling is apparently triggered by the subcortical system, which is activated by eye contact.

To find out more, the authors examined brain activity among two groups – one with autism and one without autism – as they looked at pictures of faces, some of which focused only on the eye area.

While brain activity was similar among both groups while looking at photos of entire faces, that changed for the group with autism as they looked at photos of just the eye areas. Even when they saw fearful, happy, angry and neutral faces, findings for the group with autism showed that their subcortical was over stimulated.

So what does this mean?

The findings from the study show that there may be a more effective way in engaging people with autism.

“The findings indicate that forcing children with autism to look into someone’s eyes in behavioral therapy may create a lot of anxiety for them,” says lead researcher Nouchine Hadjikhani, an associate professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School. “An approach involving slow habituation to eye contact may help them overcome this overreaction and be able to handle eye contact in the long run, thereby avoiding the cascading effects that this eye-avoidance has on the development of the social brain.”

Unsure Why Your Child Was Diagnosed With Autism? Call The Fitzgerald Law Firm

If your child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or you suspect your child has an autism spectrum disorder, contact The Fitzgerald Law Firm.

The first consultation is always free and our number is 800-323-9900.