Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

May 31, 2016

autism and eye contact, from a speech therapy viewpoint


Kristin Lyman MA CCC-SLP is a speech therapist at Child and Family Development and works at our Pineville office.  She works with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and recently discovered a blog post about eye contact on the Autism Speaks website that she has already shared with parents.  

The article provides an easy-to-read summary about the importance of eye contact but also asserts meaningful alternatives when direct gaze is a challenge. Points include:

  • Why is eye contact important?
  • When eye contact is stressful
  • Should we force eye contact?
  • Alternative ways to indicate interest
  • Signs that you should encourage eye contact
  • Encouraging eye contact with sensitivity
  • Eliciting a glance
  • Building on interests
  • Visual supports
  • Behavioral therapy and social skills groups

Kristin’s view and recommendation:

Some adults with autism have explained that eye contact or attending to others‚Äô faces can be distracting for them and make it difficult for them participate in a conversation.   Rather than focusing only on increasing eye contact, try to encourage your child to use other ways of demonstrating listening behavior.  Your child can work on using appropriate body orientation toward a conversation partner, or nodding her head in agreement to signify that she is listening. Your child could also work on using comments of acknowledgement (‚Äòmmhmm‚Äô, ‚ÄòI see‚Äô, ‚ÄòI understand‚Äô ) in conversation for this same purpose.

Read more about Kristin’s sensory-language group for kids, offered in Summer 2016 here.

C&FD speech therapists offer free 15-minute phone consultations to parents who have questions about their child’s communication skills.