Autistic writer, artist and consultant, Judy Endow on eye contact and autistic dissociation.

 Eye Contact and Autistic Dissociation One Example Photo of Judy Endow's art

Autistic Dissociation

“Dissociation is the ability to cut off from what is happening around you or to you. In its simplest form it is daydreaming. It is a skill all children have and which children with autism tend to overdevelop in managing a world they find overwhelming for a whole range of reasons.” Donna Williams

(Donna Williams at

Overwhelming Eye Contact and Autistic Dissociation

I can remember the overwhelming experience having eye contact with others sometimes had on me as a child. Too much bright, bold, painful sensory information was received when directly looking into someone’s eyes for a sustained period of time (see paintings: Look Me In the Eye, Buzzing Bones, SIZZLE POP and STRIKE ME). Coping came by disengaging from the experience. I would hover up by the ceiling and watch the girl below who was me. When the girl looked into the eyes of people I would use the too much information she got to fashion alternatives to those eyes that would cut down on the overwhelming sensory information (see paintings: Eye Fish, Eye Trees, Eye Land and Eye Tulip).

For me, the more dissociative experiences I had, the more refined my creations from eye information became. In the Goldenrod series one might not even realize the information originally came from eye contact. However, once pointed out most people notice the eye shape in the background (see paintings: Goldenrod 2, Goldenrod 3 and Goldenrod 4).

Eye Contact and Sensory Information

Today I am able to use eye contact in a pretty typical manner most of the time. The sensory information I pick up from engaging in eye contact is not often painful. I have noticed that my sensory needs have changed over time perhaps this is but another area of that sort of change in my life. However, even today when I am under stress I do not have typical eye contact. Avoiding eye contact is one of the things I find myself automatically doing to minimize the quantity of incoming sensory information.

Below is my story created in a poem and several paintings. This poem and the paintings are in my book Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated .

Look Me In The Eye, Art by Judy Endow Text Reads:

Art By Judy Endow. Text reads: The piercing burning pokes from them STRIKE ME Lightning bolts Straight-shot from their eyes Right on into mine

SIZZLE POP Art by Judy Endow Text Reads: SIZZLE, POP They slice on through, My very being-

BUZZING BONES Art By Judy Endow Text Reads: BUZZING BONES The painful hurt, Each time I try obeying.

Text by Judy Endow: The way too much of it Searing through My soul like death Erasing world beauty. Yet, with smiling lips And eyes Obedient Looking where they're told Employing ceiling hovering Watching down below- That other girl With smiling lips And correctly gazing eyes- I float right through my skin Avoiding Too much, too bright Too big, too bold. While I myself get busy From my ceiling perch Up high -

Eye Fish Art by Judy Endow. Text Reads: SIZZLE POP And then Eye shapes I elsewhere find!

Eye Trees Art by Judy Endow. Text Reads: It came to pass When

Eye Land Art by Judy Endow. Text reads: It cost us both We pay the price. STRIKE ME! With my dime they buy their candy

Eye Tulip, Art by Judy Endow. Text reads: I'd watch some eyes Look right, At them-

Goldenrod 2, Goldenrod 3, Goldenrod 4 - Art by Judy Endow. Text reads: My newfound, Eye-shaped, Ceiling bootie!


The paintings in the blog are available at under the Art tab.

Donna Williams: The Spectrum of Dissociative Disorders