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ADHD, ODD, and Eye Contact

"My son, who has attention deficit, won't look in the eyes of people who are speaking to him — a common sign of oppositional defiant disorder."

1 Comment: ADHD, ODD, and Eye Contact

  1. As an ADHD sufferer, I have always found solid eye contact difficult, although a good friend once helped me to improve it a little. Until she mentioned it, I was unaware that it posed a ‘problem’ for most people and I began to dwell on it, despite being able to slightly improve it. It is not normally down to just behaviour, being oppositional or even co-morbidity (unless co-morbid with Autism). ADHD falls into the same umbrella as Autism, and eye-contact can be a part of it.
    The main reasons for lack of good eye-contact are:
    1. Looking away to try and find words and to concentrate on what is being said.
    2. Looking away when they are trying hard to maintain interest in the conversation (they probably know where the conversation is going, and/or are feeling impatient).
    3. Feeling distracted and unsettled (simply not wanting to be involved in a conversation at that point, and again, impatient).
    4.Something the speaker is wearing or a physical trait can be highly distracting. A woman wearing an interesting necklace, cleavage, big shiny earrings, a beard, big eye-brows (especially with one sticking our at an odd angle), interesting coloured clothing with eye-catching designs, hats, beads, tanned skin, extra white skin, very blue eyes etc etc etc – can all send the ADHD person off down into the rabbit hole where they lose eye-contact.
    There is also the fact that ADHD people are acutely aware that eyes are a vital part of life – both in seeing and being seen. Someone looking intently into their eyes can be overwhelming and intense as though seeing inside their very soul.
    Remember that ADHD not only affects the concentration, but affects the way that they think, and often the overwhelming nature of many thoughts crowding into their brains can provoke a similar response and show a lack of interest or eye-contact, when really, they are going into self-protect mode.
    It is entirely possible to teach a person with ADHD how to improve their eye-contact, however they must never, ever be made to feel like it’s a problem or it will stay with them for always. They must be allowed to forfeit a percentage of eye-contact in order to address their needs in that moment.

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