I was attending a “Think Social” conference (surprise, surprise!) several years ago and Michelle Garcia Winner shared a video of her working with a little girl. She was attempting to see if the child could follow her line of sight to demonstrate joint attention and being able to literally see from someone else’s perspective. Now this doesn’t sound that hard, but wow what an eye opener this video was for me! The child, who was about 9 at the time, could not do it. She even tried to put her face in front of MGW’s face to see what she was looking at, all to no avail.
I tried this little test with several of my students with ASD when I got back to school amd about half of them couldn’t do this either! How had I missed this??? If they cannot follow very simple line of direction gaze, what are they missing in social interactions? Pretty much everything. I love the description of “thinking with your eyes” that also comes from Social Thinking and Whole Body Listening concepts. It’s not just polite to look at people when they talk with you, it is a critical skill to gain information (verbal and non-verbal) and to let your conversational partner know that you are paying attention to what they are doing and/or saying! We had a LOT of work to do.
One of the obstacles I ran into when working on joint attention with eye gaze was that I was looking at the object I wanted the child to look at, but couldn’t really look at their eyes beyond using my peripheral vision! Then I saw these nifty little “finger spies” at the Dollar Store!
They fit best on skinny. kid sized fingers, but I could wiggle the little guy onto my pointer or pinky and have the kids follow the finger spies AND watch their eye gaze at the same time!!