Aspergers and Lack of Eye Contact

Eye-to-eye contact is a type of communication. However, there ought to be a shared language involving two individuals when eye-to-eye contact is made. A person should be able to read what the other person is thinking and feeling. That's the way "neurotypical" (i.e., non-Aspergers) eye contact functions. With Aspergers (high functioning autism) however, that's not often the situation.

Eye-to-eye contact isn't something that is natural or even desirable to Aspies. They have trouble with the interpretation of this language. Many reasons exist why they can't share the language.

First, looking at someone's eye balls is extremely awkward. It is just like looking at the headlights of a train. Eye balls flicker and move, which can be unpleasant for those who have Aspergers. Even if they do make eye contact, they do not know the silent language. They need to learn each thing that the eyes tell them, from very obvious to very subtle.

The next issue is in what they send. They have no clue about what messages they're sending using their eyes. That triggers confusion for the one who is attempting to read them, because they don't send obvious messages. With this confusion on both sides, conversation using this method doesn't work well. The big deal relating to this whole eye-to-eye contact issue is the fact that our culture has built in a lot of meaning into the use of eye contact. We've interpreted this as an indication of trustworthiness and not hiding something, being secure, and the skill of listening.

These are the expectations that are put on everyone in this culture, whether we are able to make eye contact or not. If you don't use it, you are charged with lying, not being comfortable, having something to hide, not listening, etc. This may not seem sensible when you have Aspergers. I have yet to meet individuals with Aspergers who are natural liars. A number of them have had to learn to be devious when they need to be and tell the little white lies, so they don't hurt the feelings of non-Aspergers individuals. Bluntness has never harmed anybody. They lie only if they have to, and it is not very natural to them. Therefore, convinced that they lie due to not having eye-to-eye contact makes no sense.

Eye contact has nothing to do with listening. The eyes as well as the ears aren't linked on a single band. Aspergers people may hear and learn without needing to really look at somebody. There's also peripheral vision, which is looking - but from the sides of the eyes. Non-Aspergers individuals believe that if the eye-to-eye contact isn't full in the face, it's not eye contact. Aspergers individuals can be comfortable and never give eye-to-eye contact. Actually, they're much less comfortable should they have to give it every time. It is stressful and diminishes their self-ease. The truth is, should they meet someone who they don't know, they don't give eye-to-eye contact. They have a tendency to avoid stressing themselves to provide eye-to-eye contact and have a dialogue simultaneously.

Eye-to-eye contact is for the benefit of non-Aspergers individuals and not much of a benefit for the people with Aspergers. They can't do it adequately, nor communicate it very well. Additionally, it stresses them and makes them uneasy.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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