ABA therapy has long been a trusted guide for assisting children with autism, and we at Alliance ABA believe that it should be accessible to everyone. When using ABA therapy the goal is to break down any skill or behavior into smaller goals that the child can attain. This means that the child will work on each small aspect of the skill in a structured manner. Skills can be described as the ability to do something well. Communication is often the primary skill area addressed in ABA therapy. Children with autism often have a difficult time communicating with others, and the child’s effort to function with this skill deficit often looks like tantrum or other inappropriate behaviors. Children with Autism may have difficulty developing expressive language skills and understanding others; they may also have difficulty understanding or expressing non-verbal clues such as eye contact, body posture, facial expressions, hand gestures etc.
Eye-Contact and ASD
Eye-contact is a large part of communication between individuals. A shared focus on one object is how our society has been able to grow and share ideas. Any young child you know has more than likely avoided eye-contact at one point in time. They may be embarrassed and choose to avoid eye-contact, or perhaps they are just shy. Eye-contact is an incredibly intimate human interaction that we often take for granted. Children and individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) often have a difficult time communicating with others, which is often characterized by difficulty maintaining eye-contact. This skill deficit is often viewed by other individuals as a lack of interest in what is being said. While this may not be the case, this challenge with communication can ultimately lead to other challenging behaviors.
Why do children with ASD have difficulty with eye-contact?
Children and individuals with ASD often find eye-contact uncomfortable or stressful. As adults, we can understand and empathize with this social anxiety. How many of you have had to give a presentation at work or at school? It is incredibly nerve-wracking having all of those people looking at you and expecting something from you. This same feeling is how children and individuals with ASD often feel when confronted with eye-contact. Children with ASD are oftentimes listening and paying attention to the conversation, and want to contribute, but eye-contact is a difficult hurdle to overcome when it comes to communication. This hurdle is not impossible to overcome; just like when you are preparing to give a speech or presentation it takes practice and time for you to feel comfortable, and even after that you are still likely to feel nervous. With practice and time children and individuals with ASD are able to lessen this fear of eye-contact.
How to help with eye-contact with ABA therapy
One of the best ways to help lessen this fear of eye-contact is by using ABA-therapy and intensive therapy sessions. With the help of ABA services, increasing the child’s skills in these areas of communication is achievable. Part of increasing the willingness to make eye-contact, is making it less intimidating. The most important aspect of ABA is rewarding the behaviors that we want to see. Learning to make requests with ABA therapy relies heavily on the child’s desire for that which they cannot access themselves. One possible ABA technique that may be discussed or used at home, is enforcing the idea that the child can get what they would like more effectively if they make eye-contact. To do this, you may take your child’s favorite food item or toy (the reward) and hold it in your hand with your back facing to them. When the child then asks for the item (either vocal or nonvocal), turn back around and face them. If they are looking at you then they will be given the reward, if they do not look at you return to your initial position and repeat.
There are many other ABA techniques that create positive reinforcement with regards to making eye-contact and will increase your child’s willingness to participate in this difficult social skill. Alliance ABA’s highly trained clinical team is able to work out a system that works for you and your child.
As you can see, ABA has a lot of offer in the areas of communication and daily living skills. When you use Alliance ABA Therapy services, your child will not only work on these critical skills, but your family members will also receive training in order to work on these skills daily. Contact Alliance ABA Therapy today!