Saturday, May 16, 2009
When Reagan was little, I used to beg him to look me in the eyes. He just couldn't do it. I used to get mad at him, because I couldn't understand it, and I thought he wasn't listening to me. Eventually I gave up since it was so frustrating for both of us. I'd make sure he was listening to me by having him repeat instructions or information back to me. Once he was diagnosed with Asperger's, I finally understood what the problem had been.
There is a book by John Elder Robinson called "Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's" Mr. Robinson has done such things as making rocket shooting guitars for the band Kiss and computerized toys for Milton Bradley. He was a smart guy, and focused on the things he was interested in. Like so many Aspies. But as a child, he had a hard time communicating, and eye contact was a part of that.
Understanding that has been helpful with understanding Ciaran. He gets lost in his own little world, and I think, for him, eye contact breaks him out. For some Autistics, however, eye contact is just too much stimulation. We give a lot of information with our faces, and children with Autism often just don't know how to prioritize that information and make sense of it, so they simply avoid it. It's not at all personal.
With therapy and intervention, both Reagan and Ciaran are getting better at looking at us. For Ciaran, sometimes eye contact is his way of asking for something, and it's coming before the actual words "I want". Being brought into his world with eye contact has been so incredibly special. I have incredible sons, and, oddly, I'm thankful for their diagnoses. It's allowed us so much more understanding, and it's given them so many resources and tools to help them get better.