One of the most annoying and impractical symptoms of any autism spectrum disorder is prosopagnosia. This condition is more commonly known by the title “face-blindness.” Having prosopagnosia means that it is very difficult to recognize people’s faces. For some, it is difficult to recognize their own reflection. Others, like I, have a more mild case which only causes problems when the faces are out-of-context.
For instance, it happens quite frequently that I am approached in public places such as the mall or grocery stores by somebody who recognizes me from school or from performances. Because of my face-blindness, rarely do I share the sense of familiarity with the person, creating countless uncomfortable moments for me and the other party involved.
This sometimes-embarrassing condition occurs because as a person with an autism spectrum disorder, faces have never interested me. Neurotypical children become fascinated by the human face from early infancy, helping them to develop emotionally and socially in a way that we autists do not naturally follow. While others develop recognition skills during this process by subconsciously committing people’s faces to memory, people with ASD really have to try to accomplish the same thing. If I am comfortable enough around a person that I feel safe looking at their face, I will identify them by an outstanding feature. I identified my best friends in preschool, Lauren, Alyssa, and Timmy, by Lauren’s red hair, Alyssa’s white eyelashes, and Timmy’s large brown eyes. With this method I rarely make mistakes picking out my family and close friends. When I encounter somebody who I am not close to, I usually try to remember them by their hairstyle, eyewear, or clothing. This works well if I will only encounter the person for the day, but if I meet them at any other time, I will fail miserably at recognition because, as it turns out, people tend to change their clothes and hair. If the person has an outstanding physical feature, such as a monobrow or a beauty mark, I have an easier time, but those sorts of features are some that tend to make the beholder uncomfortable, and so I feel guilty having to rely on them for recognition purposes. Until everybody has only one outfit and hairstyle that they wear every day, though, I think that my vain method of adaption is a necessary one.