When you have a teen on the spectrum, a lot of your time and energy is put towards helping your teen develop the proper social skills to function in daily life. Usually, social skills are what teens on the spectrum commonly struggle with–and one of those skills is making eye contact. Spectrum teens avoiding eye contact is very common, but the reason for it may be far from what we previously thought. 

New study sheds light on why spectrum teens avoiding eye contact may not mean what we think it means

Teens avoiding eye contact is usually seen as a sign that they don’t care what you’re saying or indifference–but that’s not what it is for teens with autism. For teens on the spectrum, making eye contact causes significant discomfort and stress, leading them to not do it.

A group of researchers at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital believed that because eye contact was stressful or even hurtful there was a neurological cause behind it.

The team traced the issue to a part of the brain called the subcortical system–and this study basically discovered that many of those with autism have an over sensitive response when it’s activated, which is what makes eye contact difficult.

Nouchine Hadjikhana, MD, PhD, corresponding author of the new study, explained what they found:

“The findings demonstrate that, contrary to what has been thought, the apparent lack of interpersonal interest among people with autism is not due to a lack of concern. Rather, our results show that this behavior is a way to decrease an unpleasant excessive arousal stemming from overactivation in a particular part of the brain.”

This research has unlocked a part of autism we didn’t understand fully, getting us closer to developing better ways to engage with individuals with autism and how to help. We now further understand the meaning behind spectrum teens avoiding eye contact, which can help us help them. If you believe your teen is struggling and needs help, it’s important to seek out a professional for further guidance on how to best help your whole family find a solution.

For more information about how we help at Seven Stars, contact us today at 844-601-1167