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Children normally start engaging in eye contact from as early as 3 months. At birth, many babies are long or short-sighted. Over the first few years of life, they outgrow the errors and most get to the state of ‘zero error’ (emmetropia). By age 5, most children have no refractive error or a very insignificant amount of long-sightedness. Most people who do not need glasses are long-sighted.

But children with Down Syndrome have a genetic condition called trisomy 21 whereby they inherit an extra copy of a chromosome. This results in them having some physical and intellectual features that affect their appearance and developmental abilities.

Why they avoid eye contact

Eye contact is necessary for communication and should not be overlooked. Children with Down Syndrome tend to look down instead of at the person addressing them.

Some of them have not learned that it is important to maintain eye contact. They might also have low muscle tone which makes natural actions such as lifting, turning and moving the head difficult for them.

Solution

Since children with Down Syndrome usually do not complain about their eye problems; parents should schedule regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist experienced at handling development at delays. The doctor will determine if the child needs eyeglasses which can help with focusing on a speaker. The ophthalmologist can also recommend some fun ways that can teach the children to focus better on faces or objects. These exercises should be done regularly to help the child improve at maintaining eye contact.

With practice, they can learn to make and maintain eye contact as they grow. It is important to make the exercises fun and engaging. Do not force the child to make eye contact.

You can contact us for more help with improving the sight of your child.