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Why Autistic People Avoid Eye Contact, as Explained By an Autistic YouTuber

A Dutch girl explains what's going on in an autistic person's head when you try to lock eyes.

by Melissa Cronin
Nov 14 2015, 8:00pm

For an autistic person, avoiding eye contact may not signify a lack of interest. Rather, it's a way keep focused on the task at hand.

Remrov, an artist and autistic savant, or a person with autism who exhibits extraordinary skills, from the Netherlands, created an enlightening video about why she and other people with her diagnosis don't hold eye contact when speaking to people.

There are a few different reasons, she says: for her, it feels "unnatural" and that it's difficult for her to gauge how long to hold eye contact with a person. With all of these different concerns combined together, making eye contact triggers a kind of sensory overload, making it too difficult to focus on the actual content of the conversation.

"When I'm having a conversation with someone, [if] I would make eye contact, I would miss everything that person is saying," she said.

One 2013 study that looked at kids with and without autism found that children with autism spectrum disorders also are more likely to have a reduced ability to control their eye movements. Another 2005 study found that seeing other people's faces triggered a "threat response" in people with autism, another reason why eye contact might prove challenging.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect Remrov changing her name.