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Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Questions About Eye Contact and Autism

Several people have recently tried to post comments about infant eye contact and autism on the What, Where, When page. You can't do it, it's filled up! And I can't put your queries or my answers there, either.

Please use this page for posting eye contact questions.

One recent question was about prematurely-born twins-- I just want to remind everyone that developmental age for premature babies should be counted from when they should have been born, not from when they were born. You can't expect babies born 6 weeks early to do at one month the same things done by babies born at full term.


  1. Hi Dr. Mercer ,
    I have 13 week old boy girl twins ( 10 weeks adjusted ) I have some concerns about my son . He did not socially smile until 8 weeks , 3 days. In the beginning it was one or two smiles a day now he smiles more at me but mostly in the am . What concerns me the most is when he is on my lap he is often looking at everything but me . He does make good eye contact from his rocker , on the playmat and from his bassinet when I gaze down on him . Recently with a lot of coaxing he has made eye contact while on my lap and smiled back a few times . He does coo a lot and I’m hearing a couple of consonants already . He will “‘talk” back and forth to me . He doesn’t smile for other people , his dad less than me . Thoughts? Thanks :)

    1. Sorry not to answer more quickly-- I have been out of town.

      This all sounds to me to be within the normal range. You do have to work hard for those early smiles! And maybe other people aren't working as hard as you are.

      The talking back and forth sounds like a very positive indication.

      As for eye contact and smiling at different distances, keep in mind that his vision works differently from yours. Things that are too close are harder for him to see. In addition, if a face or eyes are partly in shadow, as they may be if you are sitting and looking down at him, that will be harder for him to see than if objects are in bright illumination.

      Keep in mind also that some of these things are possible personality/temperament differences. Not everyone smiles a lot even when happy, or looks very sad when sad.

      Finally, if you are comparing brother and sister, remember that she is likely to be developing a little faster than he is, especially in social ways.

      It all sounds good to me!

  2. Hi Dr. Mercer,

    My 5.5 month old twin son (fraternal with sister, born at 37.5 weeks) smiles often but about half of the time when he smiles, he turns his head to the side and looks away while smiling, as if he was shy or bashful. He's been doing this since he started smiling around 3 months. I asked his pediatrician about this at his 4 month wellness check but she said that babies cannot be shy or bashful at that age. He giggles and his tracking and ability to recognize my face when I enter a room is great. I just don't know if the looking away is something to be concerned about or if this is fairly common?
    Thanks in advance!

  3. I agree that he can't be "shy" in the usual sense, but he may find that the interaction is both pleasurable and a little overwhelming, so he moderates it by turning away and then turning back. Lots of babies do this in a flirtatious sort of way.