Children with autism may demonstrate a lack of eye contact during their social interactions and communication with other people. Giving eye contact to another person is a form of nonverbal communication that most of us automatically engage in whenever we are interacting with one another, however this is often one of the main challenges with children with autism.
In this week’s blog article, we wanted to share with you some simple tips and strategies on how you can get eye contact with your child with autism. Remember, consistency and repeated practice is important to establish any new skill – so keep trying and you will gradually see your child’s eye contact increasing!
Go down to your child’s level
While speaking to and interacting with your child, it is important to go down to his/her level to encourage face-to-face interactions. To do so, you may have to bend down or kneel down in front of your child until your eye level is at the same level as his/hers. As children are smaller in size and stature, it may be straining for them to have to constantly look up, and we can only imagine how much more challenging it would be for a child with autism to have to constantly look upwards at an adult to give eye contact.
Engage your child in interactive plays/ people games
Another way to promote eye contact between your child with autism and yourself is to conduct interactive play activities with your child. Interactive plays, sometimes also referred to as people games, are fun physical activities that can help encourage social interaction and communication, and typically do not involve the use of toys. Often while playing with toys, a child’s attention is focused on the toy instead of the people in front of them. By removing the toy from the playtime and conducting an interactive play, you become the “fun and interesting” thing that the child wants to engage with. Examples of interactive plays include tickles, peekaboo, chasing, etc.
For more tips and ideas about interactive plays, you can check out the video below!
Bring motivating items up to your eye level
Firstly, it is important to find out what is motivating for your child with autism, i.e. what they like. This may be a toy, an object, food item or drink. When your child wants this motivating item, instead of handing it directly to your child, you could hold up the item to your eye level, and wait for your child to give you eye contact or look at your face, before handing the item to your child. By doing so, each time when you bring motivating items up to your eye level, you are drawing your child’s attention and focus to your face/eyes.
Reinforce your child each time he/she looks at you
Your child with autism may not understand the nonverbal communication of giving eye contact and it may not be rewarding for them to do so during social interactions. Hence, it is important to consistently and repeatedly reinforce your child when he/she gives you eye contact, in order to help your child understand that giving eye contact is a good skill to demonstrate, which eventually encourages them to continue doing so. For instance, while playing tickles with your child, you can pause and wait for your child to look at you before you continue tickling him/her; before handing a desired item to your child, pause and wait for your child to look at your before handing the item to him/her. Additionally, whenever your child gives you eye contact, you could also reinforce your child by smiling back at him/her and saying “Good looking!”
We hope the above tips and strategies would be helpful in helping you build and strengthen eye contact in your child with autism! If you require further support, feel free to contact us at 03-2094 0421 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!