A common feature of autism for many is avoidance of eye contact. Those who have the disorder often cite it as uncomfortable, intense, distracting, or even painful. Instead of accepting and respecting that, however, neurotypicals have historically tried to force it upon children with autism because avoidance of eye contact looks “dodgy” or “suspicious” or “makes it look like they’re not paying attention” (never mind the fact that people with autism say they focus better when they’re not making eye contact, of course…sigh).
But as this video created by CollegeHumor shows us, eye contact can be…
When watching this, I’m reminded of the way John Elder Robison, a man with Asperger’s, put it in his memoir, Look Me in the Eye: “I don’t really understand why it’s considered normal to stare at someone’s eyeballs.”
Of course, if it weren’t for the serial killer-esque expression on that guy’s face, it wouldn’t be quite so creepy. But still, if I were to make unflinching eye contact with my co-workers while typing, I’m pretty sure they’d be terrified of me…which is definitely saying something, because I am pretty small and unimposing.
Eye contact, at least in certain circumstances, is just not okay.
And ugh, putting on lip balm is even worse!
Okay, okay. Yeah, I know, I know. The facial expressions and sound effects used in this video definitely make the eye contact way creepier than it would have been otherwise. Still, maybe it can give neurotypicals a bit of empathy for those with autism. Sometimes eye contact can be really uncomfortable and unsettling for all of us, so we should not judge those with autism for not looking us in the eye.
Besides…social interaction is often inherently uncomfortable for people on the spectrum to begin with. Why do we insist on making it even harder for them by getting them to look others in the eye?
If nothing else, at least the video can give us a good laugh at our weird and arbitrary social norms. Check it out!
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.