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 can't even identify my own family.
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 don't. Why?  Because we are not sure it's them.  Plus, our body language doesn't work properly.  Plus, if we make eye contact, it actually stops us hearing you.  Different brain wiring.

So easy for people to misinterpret our anxiety 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.  

Otherwise, just stop taking offence at our social communication oops situations.  It's not personal.  It never was.  We're as happy to see our friends as anyone else is.  We care about our friends as much as anyone else does.   But our way of interacting is different.
Be aware of the vulnerability, and aware that we're not trying to be rude.