Autism – lack of eye contact – symptoms, manifestations and treatment

Eye contact and autism

One of the prominent criteria used to test for autism is checking for full or partial eye contact, with preference for lateral, unfocused vision.

In the case of autism, partial eye contact may occur differently, and with varying intensity and severity. However, most children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum have significant difficulty in forming full or partial eye contact.

Among some children, the difficulty manifests in forming partial eye contact in the presence of strangers only. In others, the difficulty manifests at home, too.

Similarly, children diagnosed on the spectrum have difficulty pointing at objects that they are interested in. Behavioral therapies tend to cite this behavior as indicating lack of social reciprocity, in addition to the difficulty in developing emotional interrelations.

However, besides sensory overload that causes children diagnosed on the spectrum to have significant difficulty in making eye contact, there is a biochemical reason for the lack of eye contact or interrupted eye contact. This is a disorder of G proteins that control the cellular signal and are important for the functioning of retinoid receptors. These are the basis for healthy visual processing.

The cells’ ability

The cellular signal refers to cells’ ability to perceive and respond correctly in their microenvironment. This lack of eye contact disorder, combined with a vitamin A deficiency, may cause dysregulation of the immune system, a weak immune response and metabolism of lipids that are necessary for brain development.

Vitamin A deficiency or malabsorption causes destruction in the visual processing center of the brain, and precludes the use of vision for planning visual manipulation.

Administration of vitamin A as a nutritional supplement may help reconnect the retinoid receptors that are vital to vision, sensory perception, lingual processing and attention.

This means that the first step in treating cases of lack of eye contact in children diagnosed on the spectrum is the use of vitamin A in its natural form, with the aim of repairing the G proteins and restoring good visual processing.

What are the causes of vitamin A deficiency formation?

  1. Low protein and fat intake due to food fussiness.
  2. Digestive disorders such as: digestive enzyme deficiency; deficiency in bile acid synthesis or secretion into the intestine; chronic diarrhea; celiac and inflammatory bowel disease, characteristic of some children diagnosed on the spectrum.
  3. Zinc deficiency, which causes a decrease in activity of the enzyme that releases retinal from its stored form.
  4. Deficiency in zinc mineral that is required for the enzyme that oxidizes retinol to retinal.
  5. Iron deficiency, which may cause vitamin A metabolism disorders and exacerbate iron deficiency anemia.
  6. Pancreatic disorders – dysfunction of the pancreas will cause improper secretion of digestive enzymes that are necessary for the vitamin A lysis and absorption process.

How may vitamin A deficiency be identified?

A serum blood test will identify a vitamin A deficiency: serum retinol levels of less than 10 micrograms per deciliter indicate acute vitamin deficiency and depletion of its reserves in the liver.

Eye contact autism – replenishment of vitamin A reserves through nutrition.

There are two main sources for acquiring vitamin A from animals and plants:

Vitamin A replenishment from a plant source

Vitamin A may be found in fruit and vegetables of the beta carotene family, which are converted into retinol (the alcohol form of vitamin A) after absorption. These foods include cooked sweet potato, mustard leaves, carrot, cooked butternut squash, cooked spinach, parsley, dill, pumpkin, purple lettuce, coriander, basil, chives, melon and red peppers.

Vitamin A replenishment from an animal source:

Vitamin A may be found in fish oil, beef liver, chicken liver, fatty cheese and butter. Beta carotene is absorbed less easily in the intestine than retinyl palmitate, which constitutes a precursor to retinol received from products of animal origin (such as liver, egg protein, fish oil, milk and butter). This means that fruits and vegetables are less effective as a source of vitamin A.

Great care must be taken when addressing a vitamin A deficiency with nutritional supplementation. It should be conducted in an educated, controlled manner, under the guidance of a qualified therapist and for a limited time only.

Excessive vitamin A uptake will result in toxicity and rapid absorption of the vitamin in the intestine, peaking 2-6 hours after digesting the food. In contrast, the vitamin’s clearance from the body is slow.

Vitamin A toxicity may manifest as nausea, emesis, irritability, appetite loss, blurred vision, headaches, alopecia, abdominal pain, weakness, insomnia, dry mucosae, fever, anemia and blurred consciousness. It  may also result in loss of bone mass.

In conclusion: in most studies, lack of eye contact or interrupted eye contact in children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum may be treated through educated, short-term vitamin A supplementation in the correct doses.

Legal clarification – the statements herein are intended to expand personal knowledge and general understanding only. The foregoing is not to be considered an alternative to medical consultation and/or medication and/or treatment performed by a caregiver and/or physician, or constitute a recommendation for individual care in any way.

Additional information:

C.A.T | Autism – lack of eye contact
Lack of eye contact