“Jamie look me in the eyes when you’re talking to me” was something I heard all too often as a kid. My grandma would constantly nag me to make eye contact much like her other old school rules such as “no elbows on the table” or “sit up straight.” People would also accuse me of staring too much at them, especially in elementary school. My staring was either from my lack of ability to make proper eye contact, not knowing what is too much/too long, or I would completely space out because I’d become too distracted/panicked by concentrating so much. These memories made more sense to me after I found out about my aspergers at the age of 26.
Eye contact is something I have had to work on growing up, and I feel much better about it now than I did before.
I am comfortable with making eye contact with people I know for a little while, but even then there is a limit. I can only look at someone for so long before I have to look away for a bit because I have to refocus. I also seem to have tunnel vision when looking at someone’s face and it can be hard to concentrate on everything at once. Sometimes when I do actually look at someone for too long I realize they look different from what I imagined in my head because obviously I don’t look at them often. I have also been known to not look or turn to someone when I want to strike up a conversation with them and because I didn’t turn their way they don’t know I am actually talking to them. This can definitely be awkward and can cause communication break downs. My lack of ability to make eye contact is probably most noticeable on my off days or during the days/at the end of the day where I have lost all my energy. Normally is what happens is I have worked all day on trying not to be socially awkward or “neurotypical” (A word I don’t like using too often but can’t seem to think of a better way to explain this) that I lose all my energy and it actually begins to hurt my head/eyes to force eye contact.
So though I still struggle I have made a lot of progress and have gotten better with making eye contact. I have taught myself some tricks to help make it easier for me. One thing I do a lot especially when meeting people for the first time is instead of looking right into their eyes I will just look at their forehead or between their nose and it looks the same as if I was looking at their eyes. This way their eyes don’t feel so intimidating. I have gotten better with studying people’s faces so they don’t become so alien to me and I have taught myself the proper amount of eye contact to seem polite without getting distracted or panicked. Other than my odd off day this is something I feel I have definitely improved on, and I don’t worry so much about it anymore.