Eye contact is thought to be essential in social situations, conveying key cognitive and emotional social information. However, some individuals with autism report difficulty making and maintaining eye contact, describing it as anxiety provoking and overly intimate, particularly with strangers. Therefore, my research interest aims to further understand these difficulties with eye contact.
These eye contact difficulties do not appear to be universal, however. Some individuals with autism reporting ‘hyperarousal’ in response to eye contact, others report difficulties understanding the social cues associated with eye contact, and others still report difficulties with timing eye contact appropriately (often leading to ‘staring’). Likewise, those with autism report ‘practicing’ eye contact with friends, family members, and pets before moving onto strangers. My project emphasises the role of this ‘autistic voice’, or diversity in self-reported eye contact difficulties across those with autism, across the study.