Many persons on the spectrum find eye contact to be overrated. Boo Bear never used to be very big on it. As he was my first baby, I never realized how poor his eye contact was until his sister, Mouse, came along. At five minutes old she latched on and gazed deeply into my eyes. I was convinced I had just given birth to a genius. To be fair, she had a much easier entrance into the world than her older brother did. I was in labor with Boo for 36.5 hours and pushing for over 3 of them. He came into the world, very grudgingly, with the help of a vacuum extractor and a nurse pushing down on my stomach as hard as she could. Fun times. Upon arrival he was in very rough shape and was whisked away to the special care nursery where I did not get to see him until he was at least 5 hours old. He was very jaundiced and spent much of the next 16 days under lights with a mask over his face to protect his eyes. He had little opportunity chance to look around and check out his world.
Boo was diagnosed as being on the spectrum when he was two years old. By then I knew that his lack of eye contact was a big deal. He wanted nothing to do with it. I could sometimes get him to look at me if we were both looking in the mirror or if I knelt down in front of him and pushed him in his swing. One day, as I was pushing him in his swing, his left eye suddenly crossed over towards his nose and stayed there. I figured this was not a good sign and off to the eye doctor we went. Several weeks later Boo was wearing tiny, coke bottle thick glasses and a patch over his good eye to keep his wandering eye straight. His eye contact did improve to a degree. I wonder if one of the reasons he had never looked me in the eye was because he could not see me clearly in the first place.
Fast forward 13 years. Boo Bear still wears coke bottle thick glasses but his lazy eye does not usually wander unless he is really tired. Recently, he has started a new trick. He will come up to me, practically going nose to nose, and look me deeply in the eyes for several minutes. After holding my gaze for a substantial period of time he will crack up laughing. He will do this again and again. I am loving the eye contact but I have no idea what is so funny. At any rate, he is happy so I am happy. Maybe this is his newest party trick. I don’t push him to look at me if he does not want to. I realize that eye contact is exhausting for him. When he looks me in the eye it is as if he is giving me a gift, one that he will not share with everyone, and I feel honored to receive it. His laughter reminds me of bells, and the merry laugh that follows him looking at me is delightful. As anyone who lives with someone on the spectrum knows, ASD is no bed of roses. There is frustration, fear, isolation and constant worry. But, there is also joy. Despite what some people have said to me, I do not believe that Boo is my cross to bear, but rather, my greatest blessing. He is a strange, quirky little guy who marches to the beat of his own accordion, but first and foremost he is my son. He can choose when he wants to make eye contact and when he chooses to remain in his own little world. When he chooses to visit my world it is always a delight and I relish the time that he chooses to spend with me.