New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense
The parent of a child with autism taught her seven-year-old son to say to his teachers, "If I look at you when you talk, I can’t hear you." Like my son, this boy needed to look away in order to listen.
“Making eye contact” is over-rated as an important “skill”—let’s put it in the same category as the antiquated notion that a limp handshake indicates a weak character. It’s time to stop judging people who may not always make eye contact, and time to stop torturing children and adults via therapies and other efforts to force them to make eye contact.
My son, Benjamin, has cerebral palsy. As a young child, he usually was not able to maintain his posture, hold his head up, listen, and make eye contact at the same time. He spent a lot of time with his head down, and his dad and I made the common (and unfortunate) mistake of assuming he had mentally “checked out” during these times. Imagine our shock and dismay (and ultimately joy) when we realized that our son heard every word we said (and memorized much of it) even though he didn’t appear to be “engaged” because he wasn’t making eye contact.
During years of physical and occupational therapies in Benjamin’s early years, therapists were insistent during eye-hand coordination and other activities. I remember a therapist trying to get Benjamin to hold a toy at “midline” and use his right hand and then the left to play with the toy. Benjamin’s head was often turned to the side, away from the toy, and the therapist repeatedly grabbed his chin and jerked his face back to the middle. As soon as she took her hand away, his head went back to where he wanted it. By this time, I realized Benjamin frequently used his peripheral vision (and I told the therapist to stop). He wasn’t being obstinate; he was positioning his head and eyes where they worked best for him. Click here to continue.