Ask the Horizons Team: How to make eye contact with your child
My child only looks at me when I tell him to. I do not want to continue to prompt him. What do I do?
-Marilyn in Traverse City, MI
Thanks for asking this important question! Continuous prompting for eye contract creates major problems and doesn’t help the child learn how or why he would shift his attention to you in the first place. The use of eye contact (also known as “gaze shifting”) is a fascinating developmental milestone that develops in neurotypical children early in the first year of life. When it does not develop, we as adults have a tendency to force the issue by demanding it through prompting. You will support your son’s development with this process by removing your prompting and making some small but important changes. Follow these simple steps when you would like your child to shift his gaze to you:
- Stop what is happening around you (i.e. stop what you are doing as well as what your child is doing).
- Get down at your child’s level.
- Take hold of your child’s hands (or put your hand on his body) and say his name.
- Wait–it may take a while, but your child will direct his attention/shift his gaze towards you.
- When you child is oriented towards you, be sure to give him a big smile to let him know you are now engaged with him.
By practicing this sequence over time, your child will learn to shift his gaze to you in appropriate ways and for meaningful reasons.