It is a common understanding that individuals with autism will not, or do not like to look others in the eye. This can be distressing and even hurtful to those who love and care for such individuals.
This tendency to avoid eye contact has led to the conception that people with ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) are ‘uncaring’ or can’t engage emotionally.
However new research shows that this may be a misconception. Those with ASD may be avoiding eye contact because it is physically uncomfortable to them, not because they do not want to engage with others.
Instead, it is likely that any lack of emotional development or understanding is actually a symptom of this discomfort. Autistic individuals often want (or need) to avoid eye contact and thereby may miss a lot of the emotional development encountered by reacting to facial expressions. This then ‘stunts’ their emotional development and abilities.