(Two minute read)
How would you suggest increasing eye contact in a child?
I would play a “game” of eye contact (simply “staring” at the teacher, therapist, parent, peer, etc.) starting with 3 seconds, then 5 seconds, 7, 10, 15, 20, 30 seconds, and so forth, to get the child comfortable making eye contact for extended periods of time.
Reward successful eye contact for each distinct amount of time and keep increasing the length of time.
In reality, we make eye contact approximately 60% of the time when we chat with someone. By swinging the pendulum to the other extreme (of staring for a given amount of time), we’ll eventually get somewhere in the middle.
Important note: Some children struggle with eye contact due to social anxiety or low self-esteem. The anxiety and self-esteem should be addressed simultaneously if we want the progress to stick.
Also, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) particularly have difficulty with eye contact. Keep practicing the “eye contact game” but also address other skills such as conversation skills and play skills. Don’t spend time exclusively on the goal of eye contact as it may take a long time for this skill to be achieved and precious time might be wasted in the interim. Instead, focus on other social goals simultaneously.
Have a wonderful week!