Most people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty with social interaction and communication. Many people with ASD also have unusual body language, including avoiding eye contact.
Some researchers believe that people with ASD avoid eye contact because they find it overwhelming or because they find it difficult to process all the information that comes with making eye contact. Others believe that people with ASD avoid eye contact because they are deliberately trying to avoid social interaction.
However, there is no clear consensus on why people with ASD avoid eye contact. Some researchers believe that it is a coping mechanism that people with ASD use to deal with social anxiety. Others believe that it is a symptom of the underlying condition.
Whatever the reason, avoiding eye contact can make social interaction more difficult for people with ASD. It can also make it more difficult for people with ASD to make and maintain eye contact with others.
If you are interacting with someone with ASD, be patient and understanding. Allow them to initiate eye contact on their own terms. If they do make eye contact, maintain eye contact for a few seconds before breaking it off. Respect their personal space and do not attempt to touch them without their consent.
Autism research: Understanding reluctance to make eye contact with others
A new study published in the journal Science provides insight into why people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be reluctant to make eye contact with others.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), used a novel eye-tracking system to measure how people with ASD process social cues from other people’s eyes.
The results showed that people with ASD are less likely to fixate on the eyes of others when they are looking at pictures of faces and more likely to fixate on the mouths of others.
The study also showed that people with ASD are more likely to fixate on the eyes of others when they are looking at pictures of objects.
“These findings suggest that people with ASD may be less interested in looking at the eyes of other people because they find it less socially relevant,” said senior author Jennifer Doudna, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF.
“Our findings also suggest that people with ASD may be more interested in looking at the mouths of others because they find it more socially relevant.”
The findings could help explain why people with ASD often have difficulty making eye contact with others and may be more likely to engage in self-injurious behavior, such as biting or head-banging.
“This study provides new insight into the social deficits of ASD and opens up new avenues for research into the causes and treatment of this disorder,” said senior author Nouchine Hadjikhani, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.