Eye contact is one of the most essential referring points for building social relationships and emotional development. Most children with autism spectrum have severe challenges in looking directly into another person’s eyes or struggle to make eye contact. Building social relationships and engaging with people without eye contact is difficult. Therefore, eye contact can be evaluated as the first step in autism treatment. For this reason, I believe that the outcome and effectiveness of treatments that improve the quality of eye contact are, in the end, a measure of the rate of treatment for autism.
There are several levels of eye contact, and a therapeutically meaningful level is formed around 100 days after birth. Shared attention that recognizes the parent through direct eye contact and gazes at them meaningfully is the primary criterion for treatment success. This process is built by interaction with parents for about three months of children showing normal developmental stages. Therefore, the first referring point for evaluating whether autism is making meaningful progress toward a cure is the formation of eye contact within three months.
The second evaluation point, secondary eye contact, is when the child begins to show initiative in eye contact. It is the time to show a social smile with clear eye contact. This is not a meaningless smile that autistic children often stare at, but a clear smile while making eye contact with the caregiver. This period is usually built around six months of age. It is a critical evaluation point whether autistic children who have not been able to make eye contact achieve meaningful eye contact accompanied by a social smile within six months.
If there is no improvement in eye contact even after 3-4 months of treatment, I think autism treatment is failing. If it is evaluated as a slight improvement in eye contact from 6 to 10 months, this also means that the treatment is failing.