Look me in the eye.
Do you ever find yourself asking your child the same question over and over again (or calling their name) and still get no response? This can be a very tiring experience for a parent, and as my good friend Adina has said, she gets so sick of hearing her own voice!
Here's the thing: ALL children, especially children on the autism spectrum, live in their own little planet. Not because they are selfish or malicious- but because children are incredibly present and absorbed in what they are doing. They are not designed to think of the bigger picture just yet and what it takes to put dinner on the table. That's the awareness we begin to develop as we get older.
Children live in their world and we are often outside and above that frame- making getting their attention very difficult at times ( I always imagine those cartoons consisting of a series of frames where the adults are simply legs- how true!).
This is what it can look like to a child, hello up there!
Here are 4 reasons why it is important to get down to your child's level, to look more like something like this (ahhhh, much better!):
1. Facilitate connection. Eye contact is the most intimate way to connect with another person, and therefore, can be very challenging for children with autism. We want to make this as easy as possible for your child by being at eye level as much as possible. This way your child does not have to crane his neck to look at you.
2. Cultivate listening. If you have something you want to say or ask your child, you are much more likely to get his attention if you get eye contact first. This way, you know you have his focus and will much more likely have to say or ask something once versus many times (this is true for all kids, including mine!).
3. Teach facial expressions and body language. The more your child looks at you, the more he has the opportunity to learn all that is communicated through facial expressions and body language, this will help him use more non-verbal ways of communicating as well.
4. Develop confidence. When a child experiences his parent looking him in the eyes and giving him undivided attention, even for a moment, it communicates the message that he is important enough to hold your undivided attention (versus half listening while while you are chopping vegetables or attending to your other children). The sense of self-importance helps to develop confidence and a positive sense of self.
The technique is simple and the rewards abundant. I invite you to get down to your child's eye level and experience a deeper connection and a slew of learning opportunities for your child.