How Much Asperger’s Is Really Face or Emotion Blindness?
How much of Asperger’s is really Prosopagnosia and/or Alexithymia?
Those two words are a mouthful, aren’t they? Prosopagnosia is the medical term for face blindness; the inability to recognize someone from a view of their face alone. Alexithymia is the term for people who have difficulty identifying and describing emotions.
Do you have one or both of those conditions? If you’re on the autismspectrum, there is a good chance you do, and if you’re like me, you may not even know it. I have always had difficulty recognizing people out of context. I seem to need context and setting to make sense of the people in my world. Otherwise, I’m lost in a world where every face is a stranger.
I’ll give you an example: I see a Jaguar pull up to our service department, and I watch the owner get out. As he emerged from the car and walks toward me I put the picture together in my mind: The look of his car (I recognize many people by their cars.) The day, and our schedule, may remind me who he is. The look of the person, and how he’s dressed also gives me a clue. Putting it all together, it clicks. I say to myself, Doctor Parker is here to drop off his car. He walks in and all is well.
But put us in a different setting – walking on the beach in Connecticut that summer – and Doctor Parker and I are in a very different position. We see each other, in bathing suits or shorts and a tee shirt. I feel no sense of recognition. He says, “Hi, John,” and I panic, though I’m careful not to show it. Who is this person? I have no idea. Knowing I am recognized, I say, “Hi, how are you doing? What’s new?” I hope his response will give me a clue as to who he is, because I have no idea at all.