Developing tolerance to eye contact in autism: A feasibility study with adults using behavioral, interview, and psychophysiological data

Lisa Andréen

Martyna Galazka

Nouchine Hadjikhani

Steven Jeuris

Paolo Masulli

Jacob Åsberg Johnels

Many individuals with autism report that eye contact makes them stressed or uncomfortable. Besides expressing their right to respect for neurodiverse ways of nonverbal communication, some  autistic  individuals  also  express  the  wish  to  improve  their  capacity  to  tolerate  eye contact. In the current study, five autistic adults completed a 21- to 28-day computerized program  that  combines  psychoeducation  with  graduated  exposure  to  eye  contact  through photos.  Interview  data,  questionnaires,  gaze  patterns,  and psychophysiological  measures indexing stress and arousal (pupillary and galvanic skin response levels) were collected to monitor and evaluate outcomes. At intake, discomfort resulting from eye contact in everyday life  was  described  as  overwhelming  and  multifaceted. 

Post-training  data  showed  that observed increases in eye contact were not happening at the expense of heightened arousal. These  results  provide  information  about  the  (complex)  nature  of  eye  gaze  discomfort  in autism while pointing toward promising techniques to increase discomfort tolerance.


This publication uses Eye Tracking which is fully integrated into iMotions Lab

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