Autistic writer, artist and consultant, Judy Endow on eye contact and autistic dissociation.
“Dissociation is the ability to cut off from what is happening around you or to you. In its simplest form it is daydreaming. It is a skill all children have and which children with autism tend to overdevelop in managing a world they find overwhelming for a whole range of reasons.” Donna Williams
(Donna Williams at http://www.donnawilliams.net/333.0.htm)
Overwhelming Eye Contact and Autistic Dissociation
I can remember the overwhelming experience having eye contact with others sometimes had on me as a child. Too much bright, bold, painful sensory information was received when directly looking into someone’s eyes for a sustained period of time (see paintings: Look Me In the Eye, Buzzing Bones, SIZZLE POP and STRIKE ME). Coping came by disengaging from the experience. I would hover up by the ceiling and watch the girl below who was me. When the girl looked into the eyes of people I would use the too much information she got to fashion alternatives to those eyes that would cut down on the overwhelming sensory information (see paintings: Eye Fish, Eye Trees, Eye Land and Eye Tulip).
For me, the more dissociative experiences I had, the more refined my creations from eye information became. In the Goldenrod series one might not even realize the information originally came from eye contact. However, once pointed out most people notice the eye shape in the background (see paintings: Goldenrod 2, Goldenrod 3 and Goldenrod 4).
Eye Contact and Sensory Information
Today I am able to use eye contact in a pretty typical manner most of the time. The sensory information I pick up from engaging in eye contact is not often painful. I have noticed that my sensory needs have changed over time perhaps this is but another area of that sort of change in my life. However, even today when I am under stress I do not have typical eye contact. Avoiding eye contact is one of the things I find myself automatically doing to minimize the quantity of incoming sensory information.
Below is my story created in a poem and several paintings. This poem and the paintings are in my book Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated .
The paintings in the blog are available at www.judyendow.com under the Art tab.
Donna Williams: The Spectrum of Dissociative Disorders