Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Asperger: Why Can't I Look You In The Eyes

"Jayden! Look at the camera!"

That's the usual sentence that I will say when I'm taking his picture. Everyone would be already looking at the camera and there he is, facing the camera but his eyeballs are looking away.

Back in 2011: And sometimes he gets upset and just totally wont cooperate at all

I use to wonder why is  he doing it, is he doing it to piss me off or what!?

Then when I read John Elder Robisons "look me in the eyes" then it all make sense. Like many moms of aspie that I spoke to, all said the same thing. We noticed something is different with our kids since young, and we began to look for answers. He fit into some traits of autism, but not all. We ask paed, and their  usual reply  "no problem lah. Every kid is different." And we end up having so many question marks in our head "why? Why? Why!!".

When I read the book and learnt more about Asperger then only my question marks got the answers and finally I'm free from "life with question marks in my head".The reason for them not looking into yr eyes is simply because not that they don't know that you are there (for some serious autism, yes they don't know u're there) but for most aspies, it's just simply because they felt very uneasy looking into your eyes and they feel intimidated. Because they cannot read facial expression, as in they can't tell if you are angry or happy or simply being sarcastic, they dont know what to say, what is right reaction to give you and most of the time, they end up pissing ppl off. Most aspie appear to be "living in own world" because either they are too into what they are doing, or they just felt more comfy not looking into your eyes.

And if you don't know about that, you might think that he is can't listen or just being plain rude. So the parents usually get angry and started to shout. Like Dr. Subash of UMMC said "you think they can hear better when you shout? Try and whisper "wanna eat ice cream?" and see if they can hear you from far. It doesn't mean that if you shout, the words will go into the brain faster or deeper you know? It's how you say it, not what you say". I guess this is for everyone to ponder and not only for aspie moms.

Since everyone is different (yes, even aspies are different among themselves) you need to try different method of approach, learn how to read their body language and slowly teach them, how to read other ppl's mind and body language. For me, I uses Microsoft words to "talk" to him when I am at home or my iphone's notepad when we're out. I'd type and he would answer me. Since JD knows how to read even before he can string words, I know he is stronger in visual learning. When he reads, he understand more than when he listen. So I need to write and add in expressions like *sob* or *laugh* or even smiley faces :D :) :( and then reinforce again by reading it out and showing him the expression so that he will learn from there.

Tiring eh? Just to communicate one thing and need to do so much? Not all the time though, only first time for something new or when he is having a badmeltdown. When an aspie kid is having a bad meltdown, everything shuts down. Unlike other kids where you can scold or coax, aspie need to let it out cos other than cry/angry they don't know how else to express themselves.

How do you solve this "not looking into the eyes" problem? Get him to look at the forehead or train him by looking straight to his face and ask him to follow yr eyeball and make it into a Game "follow my eyeballs game". And for the camera issue , I realize he has a tough time cos he is confused where to look. "Look at the camera? Then you are talking behind the camera. Look at you? Look at the people behind you? Who? Why?" so we solved the problem by using the Auto Timer. There is no one to confuse him, there is only one and only thing to focus at and that's the camera. And after a long time, he began to understand that he need to look at the camera itself and finally now we can have perfect family pictures :)