Sight is the last sense I will go over in the series “my sensory life.” They say eyes are the window to the soul but I think your eyes are your window to the world. So how much of your world is shaped into a different reality when sensory issues come into play with your perception of sight? How differently do you see this world compared to everyone else?
When I first learned of my sensory processing disorder, I asked myself these questions. Of course one of the most obvious struggles I had was making eye contact. My most immediate response was to keep my head down. In my attempts to make eye contact, I started with generally looking in the direction of the person that was speaking with and focusing on a background object. After mastering that I began to look at an object or piece of clothing the person would wear. Then finally I would look at facial features like eyebrows, lips, or nose. Then finally I was able to make eye contact but it still was quite awkward it was overly intense and I wouldn’t blink after a while so my eyes would get watery. Though I often would play it off as if they were allergies or something in my eye. Until I realized I could maintain comfortable eye contact if they were a certain distance away from me 4 feet to be exact anything closer and I began to look away.
Another very common struggle that many autistics have is sensitivity to light. As a child, I just often thought of myself as a cat. So as a cat I have night vision and prefer my room to have curtains closed. Though my mom just wanted us to enjoy some fresh sunlight and would always draw them back. My reaction of course was to hiss at her and place my covers over my head and eventually make a blanket fort so I could retreat back into the darkness. I didn’t have an explanation to give back then of why I enjoyed the dark so much. Though as I got older and learned how to drive I felt like I literally could not see the road with the shininess of the hood and other cars and the glistening of the sun on the pavement. Fortunately though wearing sunglasses brought me great relief. They not only dimmed down the sun and made me look cool but they also allowed me to avoid eye contact because no one would even know if I was making eye contact so ha ha a great bonus.
Lastly one of my other struggles but can also be my strength is my attention to detail. I’m often one of those people who simply can not see the big picture because I get caught up in all the details. As a result, I’m easily distracted by visual stimulation and might even become overwhelmed if it’s really just that busy. Even while reading I tend to lose my place because I get distracted by all the other words especially if the spacing is very close. So to overcome these challenges I try to work in very plain and neutral environments that are not very busy. Also, I use a bookmark or my finger to keep my place in the book. Though if I’m reading online I use extensions that provide blockers and help underline where I’m reading.
Overall take great care of your eyes and keep them healthy by wearing sunglasses if you’re sensitive to light. Also use appropriate lighting, sizing, and spacing that you’re comfortable with when on electronics. Don’t forget to visit your eye doctor regularly and for those autistics who take things literally here’s a tip. When the doctor asks you to look at the chart with letters don’t just stare at the chart and sit in silence. They actually want you to read it aloud. I still laugh at myself for that silly misunderstanding. As for making eye contact, making your own personal goals that you’re comfortable with any achievement big or small is still worth celebrating.