Thursday, 19 November 2015

Autism and Faceblindness

Most autistic people have difficulty identifying who's who, in some situations.  We process faces differently.  Some of us are 'faceblind'.  We can't tell who's who by looking at their faces.
This is my view of a group of my friends.  I've known them for years.  Their faces are a blur. The part of my brain that looks at faces...and decides who it is....doesn't work well.

I work out who's who by looking at hair colour and style.  Spectacles?  Beard?  Build, clothing, way of walking, way of talking.  Context of who they are with and what setting this is.  Anything but faces.

It's really awkward, because most other people know that if you walk straight past someone, it must be because you are deliberately ignoring them.

If you greet a good friend, it is supposed to be with huge enthusiasm.  Raised eyebrows of delight, huge voice tone, probably hugs and kisses.  But we might not do that. Why?  Because perhaps we are not sure it's them.  Plus, our body language is naturally different.  Plus, if we make eye contact, it often actually stops us hearing you.  Different brain wiring.

So easy for people to misinterpret our confusion about who's who as anger, and our walking-past as rudeness.

No wonder there are so many horrible, dehumanising, 'othering' myths about autistic people.

It really helps to say who you are.  Even if that seems obvious.  Name labels can really help, but only if someone is close enough to read it.  Especially if you have just changed your hairstyle or hair colour.  Especially if you are wearing glasses, when we're used to seeing you without them.  Especially if you are wearing radically different clothing styles to your usual choices.  Especially if you are one of a load of people wearing similar uniforms (staff dress code etc). 

Otherwise, please don't take offence at any social communication oops situations that happen between autistic and nonautistic people.  It's not personal.  It never was.  

Thank you for reading.