Eye contact

eye contact autism ABA‘James’ was diagnosed with ‘high functioning’ autism in 2007, aged 4. Since 2011, the TLC have been working with him and his family. Every week we spend 2 hours with him.

James showed interest making friends at school, but some things got in the way of this. His parents identified that he was not making enough eye contact, and didn’t know how to start or sustain conversation. They were concerned about how much time he spent on his own in the playground, often ‘flapping’ or making odd movements.

When we first met James, we counted how often he looked at us without prompting during a number of 20 minute periods. This gave us a starting point from where we could measure what improvements were made as a result of our teaching.

The first things we tried were:

  1. Getting James to be aware of his own behaviour. He was tasked with asking himself after 20 minutes: did I flap? did do good looking?
  2. A token system rewarding certain behaviours – including eye contact, but also answering questions correctly, effort, listening, following our rule etc.

We began to see some improvements in James’s social skills, however our observations showed that eye contact was still an issue.  As a result we changed our approach to set clearer goals for James about specific skills.

We focused on just flapping or not flapping for the 20 minute periods when we asked James to be aware of his own behaviour.

We rewarded only eye-contact with tokens. The tokens were issued for every instance of good eye-contact along with a lot of praise. He was also rewarded with silliness, something he enjoys!

Following this change to the programme we observed major improvements in both these areas. As James continued to improve, we gradually reduced the amount of tokens he received and looked at how we could generalise the behaviour as part of his everyday life at school and at home.