Yet researchers have long debated the underlying mechanism. There are two trains of thought that attempt to explained reduced eye contact. By clarifying which explanation is correct, we can make sure that we’re addressing the correct underlying concern.”. Or, avoiding eye contact is often part of a subjective list of red flags that support a myriad of diagnoses such as autism, reactive detachment disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, Tourette’s, and ADD. © 2020 Scientific American, a Division of Springer Nature America, Inc. Support our award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. It is important to respect baby’s sensory capacity. “It’s a very clear and concise story,” says Frederick Shic, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the work. Continue reading about the fascinating subject of baby's development in our article about the importance of talking to your baby. July 13, 2016 — Rebecca Brewer, Jennifer Murphy and Spectrum, April 1, 2016 — Sarah C. Bauer, Jessica Winegar and Sandra Waxman. Talk to an autistic toddler while she is swinging. Copyright © We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent. The toddlers were shown a series of carefully made videos, and before each video, a small picture flashed that would capture the child’s attention. Well, that might happen if they were actually aware that they “see” differently than everyone else. Like their peers without autism, they didn’t look away from the eyes or try to avoid the eyes in any way,” Moriuchi said. Why’s that? “Studies like this one help advance our understanding of autism and improve the way scientists and clinicians develop new treatments,” said Lisa Gilotty, Chief of the Research Program on Autism Spectrum Disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the agencies that funded the study. Ami Klin, PhD, is director of Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and is Chief of the Division of Autism & Related Disorders in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. There are two trains of thought that attempt to explained reduced eye contact. The baby does not show anxiety with strangers. When babies turn their heads away or avert their gaze it is not a sign of disinterest or rejection but rather a babyish way of saying “I’ve had enough for now, I need some time to process it all”. None: Perfectly normal never had such problem. “Depending on why you think children with autism are making less eye contact, you might have different approaches to treatment and different ideas about the brain basis of autism. Studies that track eye movements as people view faces have provided support for both hypotheses. Most children recognise the social significance of eye contact, but they seem to take it too far. With generous philanthropic and volunteer support since 1915, Children’s has impacted the lives of children in Georgia, the United States and throughout the world. So, how about re-thinking our demands for eye contact? This sign falls under the “social skills” category of autism and is regarded as a red flag. But despite many books and scientific papers, nobody has been able to satisfactorily explain why autistic children look into other people’s eyes far less often. When parents’ and babies’ eyes meet something very special happens – an emotional connection is established. You must have JavaScript enabled in your browser to utilize the functionality of this website. As soon as the child looks at the circle, a video of an actress appears in its place. In many cases, children with … While reduced eye contact is a well-known symptom of autism used in early screeners and diagnostic instruments, why children with autism look less at other people’s eyes has not been known. 217-241). The work also has implications for whether scientists who study eye contact should focus on social brain regions rather than those involved in fear and anxiety. We may not realize that incomplete lower brain development affects our ability to make and sustain eye contact. // Here are some tips on how to adjust and mediate the world to your baby while considering her special tendencies and needs: It is important to respect baby’s sensory capacity. After all, most of us can probably concentrate a whole lot better if we’re not seeing multiple faces or if our eyes aren’t hurting like they do when we stare. Jones’ team showed a series of videos to 38 typically developing toddlers, 26 toddlers being evaluated for autism, and 22 who showed developmental delays in cognition, language or movement, but did not meet criteria for autism. For information, contact Special Learning Inc., at: contact@special-learning.com. Read about eye gaze and eye contact in this insightful article and learn what you can do to encourage eye contact with your baby. Mutual gaze between parents and babies are natural and joyful.     The researchers concluded that kids with autism shy away from eye contact because they have an over-aroused amygdala. With the help of research grants, community support and government funding, Marcus Autism Center aims to maximize the potential of children with autism today and transform the very nature of autism for future generations. Mutual gaze is especially beneficial to promoting attachment when accompanied with touch and/or voice. In the first few months of life, holding the baby at about 10-20 inches away from the parent’s face facilitates eye gaze and focus. . Furthermore, it is important for parents not to force their child to have eye contact because it will only establish anxiety and frustration. “This is important because we’re disentangling very different understandings of autism,” said Jennifer Moriuchi, a graduate student at Emory University. The baby fails to recognize familiar faces. In some situations, the gaze was directed at another person’s eyes or looking away from the eyes, depending on the videos’ contents. Add to that . This website uses cookies for analytics, personalisation and advertising. An over-aroused amygdala is also present when the lower centers of the brain are underdeveloped. Autistic toddlers don’t avoid eye contact on purpose. “Our results aren’t meant to contradict these personal experiences,” emphasized Jones. Child Neurology and Developmental Center. Interestingly, a brain imaging study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that the amygdala—the emotion center of the brain that reacts to perceived threats—lights up to an abnormal extent when kids with autism gaze at a person’s face. Concerns. Additional support was given by the Autism Science Foundation, the Marcus Foundation, the Whitehead Foundation, and the Georgia Research Alliance. Together with Drs. But guess what? © 2007-2019 ZME Science - Not exactly rocket science. Drug treatments and behavioral interventions are already being developed and tested on the basis of these different explanations. Sarah DeWeerdt is a science writer based in Seattle, Washington. When parents’ and babies’ eyes meet something very special happens – an emotional connection is established. At first, the toddlers see a small blue-and-white circle flash on the screen as chimes sound to draw their attention. Our specialized care helps children get better faster and live healthier lives. The baby tends to gaze out of the corner of the eye. The child has to develop eye contact behavior naturally through ABA, rather than by force. 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