My 4 year old avoids eye contact - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 03-17-2009, 11:38 PM - Thread Starter
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She doesn't have any indications of being on the spectrum. She is a little more sensitive than most children to moods and other people's behavior, but is pretty social, makes friends easily, plays well with others, etc. She loves to play with me or papa and doesn't ever go off by herself to play.

I noticed even when she was a babe that she didn't like eye contact very much. There was none of that gazing into each others' eyes while nursing.

Lately it seems more pronounced. She's been turning her chair around to avoid accidental eye contact. She will look at me, but its pretty fleeting. If she looks longer at my face, like when we're laughing about something, I can tell she's focusing on my nose or mouth and not my eyes.

I feel a little disconnected from her when she avoids eye contact with me. Am I overreacting? Is this normal for a younger child?
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#2 of 10 Old 03-17-2009, 11:53 PM
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i have no experience but i wanted to give you a

if you are concerned, there couldnt be any harm to seeing a specialist. also, maybe posting in a different section with others who could tell you of their personal experience.

however, if you're not concerned and would rather not be given a label, just love and hug her as much as you can!

i wish i could be of more help.
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#3 of 10 Old 03-18-2009, 12:12 AM
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Just wanted to say that I have lived my whole life without any instinct regarding how to make proper eye contact, and I don't think you need to worry.

Your awareness of this issue makes you an especially observant mother, imho . I've met many women who self-identify as aspies now that they are grown, but nobody noticed anything "off" when they were children. I think girls with mild to moderate social difficulties often go undetected. I really believe that knowledge is half the battle though. Since you've seen this tendency in your daughter, you can watch for other signs of social problems and offer her support and help as needed. She's a lucky girl!

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#4 of 10 Old 03-18-2009, 12:33 AM
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I'd say that no, it isn't typical at younger ages. Things to look into might be sensory issues and/or visual processing issues. Having a good developmental optometrist take a look at visual processing (not just vision) would be where I would start.

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#5 of 10 Old 03-18-2009, 12:54 PM
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If it was only with other people I'd say it's normal, she's shy, but not with their mums. You should talk to a professional about it. :
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#6 of 10 Old 03-18-2009, 03:11 PM
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My DS avoids eye contact a fair amount of the time. He does it with everyone, including me. He has no other signs of being on the spectrum, and I always just thought it was his little quirk. He had a lot of little quirks, though, and the more researching I did, it became clear to me that he may have some sensory issues - something I hadn't even realized existed. We are in the middle of an OT evaluation, and she has noticed some stuff too. I am finding it helpful to get the evaluation so we can help him work through this now rather than later. My big concern is that as a child gets more towards elementary school, the other kids pick up on little oddities much more - and we all know how mean kids can be when someone is a little different. Maybe talk to her teachers or your ped or find a pediatric OT in your area. I called a number of OTs, and most were very helpful over the phone and willing to answer questions. They also asked me questions about things I hadn't realized pointed to sensory issues (all those little quirks!).
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#7 of 10 Old 03-18-2009, 08:55 PM
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My DD does this when there is too much information to process. I'm reading "The Highly Sensitive Child" and in they were talking about how the volume of a house can be too much for a sensitive child. I really took a look at what went on in our house and while I wouldn't say we're "screamers", I have a bad habit of doing one thing while talking to someone in the next room - raised voice. So while I'm not screaming, the volume of the house is increased. I've really worked on that and it helps a great deal. I've noticed that when we're really connected and things are quiet she is comfortable making eye contact. When the volume goes up or we get really busy her eye contact goes down.

I'm not suggesting anything about your child, just sharing my story. I have always "worried" - kind of a strong word - about her lack of eye contact her whole life. I just happened to stumble on the answer for her. I was reading the book because she really is emotionally sensitive and I was worried that I wasn't giving her everything she needed. Turns out she pretty auditory sensitive too.

Perhaps a peek at the book might help you?

I know what you mean about feeling disconnected with no eye contact, it really is hard.
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#8 of 10 Old 03-19-2009, 12:00 AM
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She has sensory issues too, right? I'm also wondering if it's a sensory overload kind of thing. Does she make 'better' eye contact after sensory calming kinds of activities? (Jumping, swimming, carrying heavy things.)

Signs of girls being on the spectrum are often different from those in boys. I'm not saying she's on the autism spectrum, and I'm not saying she's not. But if it's influencing your relationship, you might think about an evaluation.

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#9 of 10 Old 03-19-2009, 12:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your responses.

The OT (we did an ECI eval for minor speech delays) did pick up some sensory stuff when she was younger; mild sensory seeking and some definite auditory sensitivities. But the OT didn't think it was serious enough to do any interventions.

She's pretty sensitive, emotionally. She's not at all volatile and she rarely has meltdowns, but I've noticed that she is more adept at reading people's emotions than other kids in her preschool and she feels rejected more easily. She also works hard to fix any disconnection between myself and her, or she and her papa. With the eye contact, my sense is that its almost like its too much additional stimuli to process, and she actually hears us better when she looks away. Does that make any sense?

This is going to sound really woo-woo, but sometimes she reads my mind. Its really weird. Like one time I was thinking about where to plant some tulips, hadn't said anything aloud, and she said, "What are too-lips?" Another time I was thinking about a child with ALL, hadn't spoken about the child to anyone, and she woke up (I was sitting next to her in bed) and said, "Is the little girl going to die, Mama?" On my way to work this morning, for example, as I was dropping her off at preschool, she said, "Don't worry about the towels, mama" (we are running short of towels at work, and when I got there it turned out someone had brought 9 donated towels in). When I asked her how she knew I was worried about the towels, she said, "Grandpa told me." (Both her grandfathers are dead). I don't know what to make of it. Maybe all children are pretty sensitive they just outgrow it when they get older?

I have read The Highly Sensitive Child. It describes me perfectly when I was a child. Bean is not so sensitive about clothing, or about many of the things I was very picky about, but she does meet some of the criteria.
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#10 of 10 Old 03-19-2009, 01:04 AM
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As far as the eye contact thing, I am of the opinion that it is only a problem if it is a problem *for her*. Not everything really needs to be labeled and corrected. We are all wonderfully unique

If her lack of eye contact is causing her some social issues, or if there are other problems that are creating problems in her quality of life it would be time to take some sort of action. Otherwise just keep being a wonderfully connected Mama! If your gut tells you to take action then do so.

As for her knowing what is on your mind, well that is just neat! Some kids have an uncanny knack for that.


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