- 1 Comments
Parenting Children with Learning Difficulties:
Training Eye Contact in Communication?
Given that the eyes are the windows to the soul, eye contact is an important aspect of communication for people to see through the various emotions and body language that people consciously or subconsciously display. You come across as more engaged, friendly and confident as eye contact can influence the person whom you speak to and it is a form of body language that serves to either open or close the doors to communication.
Research in Austin, Texas has proven that adults make eye contact 30% to 60% of the time during an average conversation but increases to 60 to 70% when they wish to deepen their emotional connection. Since eye contact is so important, how can we learn to increase or make more eye contact with people? In particular, children with Autism face more of such challenges. Thus, we will also look into how people with Autism – a condition associated with difficulties in social interactions – can seek help to enhance their social interaction skills, through some tips given below:
1. Understand that it will take time
Training yourself to make eye contact with people that you engage conversation with will take time. The training involved breaking away from your old habits, introducing yourself with the new habits and of course, internalising the new habits.
2. Start with the familiar
Simply begin by adopting normal eye contact when speaking to people whom you are acquainted with. After a few tries, expand the group to include people whom you just gotten to know. In the beginning, maintain eye contact for about 30% of the time, thereafter, increasing the percentage gradually. Researchers suggest that maintaining eye contact 60% to 70% of the time is ideal for creating rapport and will not come across as aggressive. Given this general benchmark, tracking your progress is important with the objective in mind to reach an ideal eye contact time.
Overtime, confidence grows and you would have acquired the skill of eye contact.
3. Slowly work your way up
It can be tricky to make consistent eye contact with people when you are not use to it. It can be daunting and mentally draining as you try to increase your level of eye contact. Questions also arise as to how to make eye contact while not overdoing it, which leads to awkwardness of social situations.
It may be helpful to slowly work your way up to making a solid amount of eye contact till it becomes an automatic, effortless skill. Start practicing by using a mirror or a image of a pair of eyes. As a form of visual practice, you can also put a few pairs of eyes to simulate an engagement with multiple audiences in a conversation. This will train your eye muscles to be accustomed to looking at people in the eye.
4. A point to note for Autism
Generally, as Autism is a spectrum and vary widely, therapist trained in Applied Behavior Therapy (ABA) may be engaged to help the child. Managing eye contact issues in autistic children might be challenging and can result in frustration to both parent and child.
However, for children with mild social interaction issues and are unable to maintain eye contact, self-help training would still be possible. Its approach, being similar to the strategies discussed above, albeit, at a slower pace. Regular review of the skill attainment, coupled with the use of cues and reminders would be helpful. Saying verbal cues such as “eyes looking”, accompanied with visual cue with an action that comprises the use of your index and 3rd finger (pointing into the child’s eyes and moving it towards your eyes), can be used to effectively convey the need to maintain eye contact.
In conclusion, many would agree with the importance of eye contact in communication. How long you suppose to prolong your eye contact will depend very much on the culture, customs, gender, your relation with the person you are communicating with and your status as compared to theirs. In practice, one should try to make as much eye contact as possible and not beat yourself up over the times that you do not.
Cognitive specialises in supporting children with special needs & difficulties in learning, and customizes unique strategies for English, Mathematics & Science, to enhance their knowledge intake & application. Call us at 6100 2665 to find out how we can help your child. Alternatively, you may also fill up the contact form and we will get back to you within 1 working day.