Saturday, January 24, 2015

Eye Contact

D writes:

Hi Philip,

My sister, who has a son with autism, just told me about your page. I am a big admirer of what you're doing.

I am trying to learn everything I can about what life is like for my nephew so I can interact with him better. As I'm only just discovering your page, I'm not sure if you've covered this topic before: Why is it so difficult to make eye contact with people? For me, it was always hard to communicate with my nephew because I used to think he wasn't paying attention since he was looking away or stimming, which made it seem like it was impossible for him to hear what I was saying. I know better now, but would love to find out more about what it's like. Thank you for opening up your world to us - you are an inspiration! 


Coral Springs, Florida

Philip writes:

I am letting you know about eye contact. My eyes see very well. Most people seem to need to have to look long and hard to make sense of a picture. I can take in a whole picture at a glance. Each day I see too many little petty details. I look away to not get overwhelmed by a lot of little bits of information. I watch things a teacher or person I listen to tell me to watch. This helps me concentrate on what I should be focusing on. I can search for a teacher's voice to try to focus on. I am academically learning best when I sit side by side with a teacher. A seat on the side keeps me focused on your voice, and not on visual distractions. I am assessing many sounds too. I have to erase some stimuli to access my answers to people's questions and meet their demands. That is why I don't make eye contact. I am always listening. I listen a lot to voices. I so love when people talk to me and are not talking like I am not there. I am active because I am unable to feel my body well. People think I am being rude but I can't help it.  I need to move to feel my body but sitting down at least helps me not walk away from you. Please peacefully talk to your nephew. Let him know you understand. I am sad when people think I don't like them. I love people.

Corrales, New Mexico, Christmas 2014


  1. This makes me (an autistic/aspie adult) happy to read. it is a never ending debacle unfortunately. I'm so happy Teachers are making these efforts though! Great read!

    1. Hi Paul, this is Philip's mom, Lisa. Thank you for reading and commenting! I read your comment to Philip. You (and all those with Autism) are our true Teachers of Autism. I am so glad he now has a voice and can share with everyone the intricacies of an autistic mind.

  2. I love this! My five year-old has Autism and it's hard for him to focus on my eyes for longer than a few seconds- he is also very active and constantly moving, so that part was interesting to read, too! Tell Philip "thank you" for sharing this with us!

  3. My boy is just like that. Thanks for sharing. We adult has much to learn.

  4. I'm 35 and recognise this fully. Walking down office corridors or streets. I can't look at people's eyes. Greeting everyone is too much. Sitting in a work meeting it's better to stare out of the window or at a phone or just keep my eyes closed. Sadly there are many people who don't understand this and think I'm not paying attention and are not interested, where as at the end of the day I turn out to have the biggest grasp on the subject and make it all work. It remains a cause for a lot of strife. Also in personal relationships with loved ones. But it's ok. As long as we understand ourselves, and keep gently explaining it like this to the world, they one day will too, little by little. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for explaining it so simply for us, Philip. I work in a special centre for people with IDD including those with autism. I value very much and have learnt a lot more from hearing someone like yourself responding to our "why's". Thanks again & bless you!

  6. Hi Philip!
    I've come accross your posting on another site and I find it very clear, eye-opening and totally makes sense to me. Thank you for that.
    I still wonder, if it wasn't easier to listen, if you close your eyes. And with eyes closed, how would it be to look at the person speaking?
    I hope that you understand that I don't mean it as a criticism, but I want to understand even deeper how your world is. I would be glad if you could share some more on this.
    Thank you

    1. It is not easier for me to close my eyes. I think it is more awfully rude to the other person. -Philip

  7. Philip,
    I just found your site today, because a friend told me about it. Thank you so much for helping others to understand autism better. I have shared a tip with many of my autistic friends about eye contact that might help others. The problem is that some people (and not just autistic people, but shy people, too) are uncomfortable making and maintaining eye contact with others, but the people they are talking to are uncomfortable if they don't. They think you are bored with what they are saying and that you want them to go away. So here's a trick to keep both people happy: look at something near their eyes, but not quite at their eyes. For example, look at their hairline, their ear, or the rim of their glasses. Most people won't notice that you are not looking right in their eyes, but they will see you looking up and this will send them the message that you are listening and want to keep conversing with them. Do you think this will help some people to be more comfortable and have better conversations? Thank you again for your helpful site!