Autistic people make eye contact in a variety of awesome ways.
Here are some of my personal favorites:
The Shy is a common form of awesome autistic eye contact during social interactions with people. It is rarely used during social interactions with animals.
Like typical eye contact, it involves eye contact with people. Unlike typical eye contact, it involves eye contact with people in places that are not their eyes.
Ohhh, wrinkly hands! Ohhh, wrinkles! I wonder what will happen if I poke them.
Ahhh, moley neck! Ahhh, moles! I wonder what will happen if I poke them.
People’s decorative accoutrements are another target of eye contact.
Ohhh, sparkly necklace! Ohhh, sparkle! I wonder what will happen if I swallow it.
Ahhh, glittering ring! Ahhh, glitter! I wonder what will happen if I swallow it.
The Shy is an all-purpose form of eye contact, used during all kinds of social interactions with people, whenever the awesome autistic person is being herself. As herself, the awesome autistic person feels no need to look people in the eye. She feels no need to look people in the eye or the face, because she has no special messages to send to people through her eyes. If she wished to send a special message, then she would send it directly, by speaking or writing it in words instead of making googly eyes, oogly eyes, or loogly eyes at people.
Therefore, the awesome autistic person looks people in places that are not their eyes during social interactions with people. Often, she looks down, her soft meek eyes cast down, softly and meekly, at people’s necks, boobies, and hands, as if she were terribly shy and unsure of herself, or a total pervert, which she sometimes is, but sometimes not. Overall, she gives the impression of being shy and meek, nervous and insecure, introverted and reserved, which she may be, but maybe not.
In other words, the typical model of social cognition does not work for autistic people. When applied, it does not provide accurate readings of the states of mind of autistic people. More often than not, it fails. Some autistic people who look shy are shy, but many who look shy are not. They are not looking people in the eye, because they have no natural instinct to look people in the eye. Some autistic people who seem introverted are introverted, but many who seem introverted are not. They look more inwardly focused and less outwardly engaged, because their lack of eye-to-eye eye contact gives this general impression of their personality type.
Applying typical social cognition to autistic people is like assuming that the Earth is the center of the universe and predicting the motions of the planets in the sky using a good old-fashioned geocentric model of the universe. The calculations are messy, and the predictions wrong. A bunch of psycho-social fudge factors are invented to explain the inconsistencies, but the equations still miscompute. Hair is ripped out, fists clenched and unclenched, and nails dug into skin. Finally, instead of considering that the existing model does not work and is wrong, the awesome autistic person is determined to be the one who is wrong, horribly wrong, horribly wrong and disordered and diseased, so there is no reason to conceive a novel model that works and is right, a model of autistic, not typical, cognition, to explain the behaviors of autistic, not typical, people.
Ironically, the autistic model is actually just like the typical model. Autistic people do the things that they do, because they follow their natural instincts, which is why typical people do the things that they do. Eye-to-eye eye contact is not a natural instinct of an autistic person, so it is not done, unless the autistic person remembers to do it on purpose for the comfort of others who need and want it to feel whatever they feel that makes them need and want it so verry merry berry much. For autistic people, it is unnatural, unnecessary, and irrelevant. It takes away from my view of other, more interesting things, and at the same time, gives me no value of its own. For me, there are few behaviors more pointless than looking at people’s eyeballs while interacting with people. During social interactions, I do it exclusively for the comfort of others, and I am considering dropping it entirely. I am tired of doing it, and I wish that I had never learned to do it.
In addition, I would like for others to stop looking at my eyeballs as well. Sure, my eyeballs are quuute, perhaps even irresistibly adorable, but does that mean that everyone has to stare at them all the time? Compared to the big Big BIG world with all its SMALL Small small wonders all around us, there is really not much to see in my eyeballs. My eyeballs are not really that interesting, compared to all the other, more interesting things all around me. Compared to all the interesting things all around me, my eyeballs are only interesting if something is read into them that is not there, like a bunch of psycho-social fudge factors invented for the application of a cognitive model that does not work for me. Unfortunately, this is how most people look at my fascinating, all-absorbing eyeballs, which is why I have often wished to wear a Darth Vader headpiece over my head to prevent the invention of psycho-social fudge factors for the application of a cognitive model that does not work for me. I will have to cut holes on top for my bunny ears, of course. And it would be nice if it came with a TV on the inside, a TV showing a variety of programming, including a real-time video of the person with whom I am interacting. There could be subtitles for what the person is saying to me, and picture-in-picture for me to watch other, more interesting programming while the person is saying the subtitles. Also, it must have air-conditioning. Otherwise, it would be too miserable for me to wear it. Darth Vader breathing noises are not required for any functional purpose like breathing, but they will be included as a decorative accoutrement for my personal enjoyment.
Everything will be muchos wunderbar when I have it, I am sure, but in the meantime, I will continue to use my other forms of awesome autistic eye contact during social interactions with people.
What it looks like: The awful autistic person is being evasive, looking to the side to hide something that she does not want me to know. If she weren’t hiding something, then she wouldn’t be looking to the side. She’d be looking me in the eye instead. But since she’s not, she must be hiding something. Maybe she ate the last cookie in the cookie jar or pressed the big red nukular button to blow up another desolate empty plot of the Nevada basin and range province in her evil plot to blow up moar moar moar desolate empty plots of the Nevada basin and range province. She must be watched closely, this one, her eyes monitored for further unveilings of her enigmatic thoughts and thought processes. What a puzzling enigma she is. I will create a puzzle piece logo to use as the icon for my hidden file about her on my computer.
What it means: The awesome autistic person is attending to the person with whom she is interacting. Sometimes, she is listening, and sometimes, she is speaking. She is listening and speaking well, because she is looking to the side, not at the person or the person’s face or eyes. It is easiest for her to listen and speak, interact and engage, when she looks like she is not attending. In her mind are verry merry berry few thoughts about the big red nukular button or the Nevada basin and range province, but she wouldn’t mind talking about these topics as topics of conversation that are probably more interesting than whatever she is hearing and saying while looking to the side.
What it looks like: The awful autistic person is being dismissive, rolling her eyes and expressing her contempt for me. If she weren’t contemptuous of me, then she wouldn’t be rolling her eyes at me. She’d be looking me in the eye instead.
What it means: The awesome autistic person is attending to the person with whom she is interacting. Sometimes, she is listening, and sometimes, she is speaking. She is listening and speaking well, because she is looking up, not at the person or the person’s face or eyes. It is easiest for her to listen and speak, interact and engage, when she looks like she is not attending. In her mind are verry merry berry few thoughts about her contempt for anyone, because she is not thinking about anyone at all. If she did feel contempt for someone, then she would let them know by rolling her eyes at them and telling them how much they sucked, the verbal and non-verbal messages conveying the same message at the same time. Otherwise, how could she know that they knew how much they sucked? What if they thought that she was just looking up instead? What a terrible miscommunication that would be. It would suck suck suck suck suck suck suck.
Soulless, a.k.a. Aspie Stare
What it looks like: Are you on drugs? Why are you staring at me with your eyes focused on a plane of focus halfway between your face and my face? Why are you staring at me with your eyes focused way way way behind me? I am not an ophthalmologist, and you are not staring at my ear while I am staring into your eyeballs through my ophthalmoscope. Stop staring at me like that. You look like a zombie with no soul.
What it means: I am not interested in interacting with you. I wish to leave your presence as soon as possible. I just thought of a new system to categorize my collection of doorknob model numbers, so I must leave your presence as soon as possible to attend to this extremely interesting activity. Please contact me by other means if you wish to communicate with me. I am not available to communicate in person at this time.
Soulmoar, a.k.a. Intense Gaze
What it looks like: Are you on drugs? Why are you staring at me with your eyes like you are trying to suck out my soul? Stop staring at me like that. You look like a zombie looking to suck out my soul and his soul and her soul and their souls, like you are trying to collect moar moar moar souls for your soulless no-soul self. It won’t work, y’know. Since you are a zombie, no number of moar moar moar souls sucked into your eyes will give you a soul yourself. That’s the definition of being a zombie, y’know, the verry merry berry. Stop staring at me like that. You’re creeping me out.
What it means: I am no longer interested in interacting with you. Several minutes ago, I was interested, but now, no longer. Whatever you are saying has become too boring for me to continue attending to you. I have lost interest in what you are saying to me, so I am staring at your face and eyes instead, looking like I am extremely interested in what you are saying to me. I am having to stare at your face and eyes, because I am extremely bored. I have nothing else to do. Unfortunately, when I look like I am extremely interested in what you are saying to me is when I am extremely uninterested in what you are saying to me. When I am staring at your face and eyes like I am trying to suck out your soul, I am not even hearing what you are saying to me, so I do not even know what you are saying to me. Please do not ask me any questions about what you are saying to me. Alas, I will not be able to answer them. I am terribly afraid that you will ask me questions that I will not be able to answer. Please pick up on my abject boredom and change the subject as soon as possible. Perhaps we could talk about zombies instead. When we are talking about zombies instead, I will look up and to the side, just in case you are a zombie trying to suck out my soul. Are you a zombie trying to suck out my soul? Please don’t be or become a zombie trying to suck out my soul. I am terribly afraid of zombies.
Speaking of zombies, I would like to recommend my personal favorite zombie movie:
It is called Dead Alive, set in New Zealand, and directed by Peter Jackson.
It is one of my personal favorite topics of conversation. I always make wuvly purrrfurrrt eye contact with everyone when I am talking about my personal favorite zombie movie with them.
Then, I suck out their souls.