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Autism: The Trouble With Facial Recognition

29 Jul

This morning as I was driving towards the other side of town, I saw a hitchhiker. It is not unusual for people to try and get rides there, as it is a major highway. This person, however, looked a bit like someone I knew.

One thing to note is that I have a lot of trouble with face recognition. It used to frustrate my mom and older brother a lot when I was a teen, and they would try to describe someone famous, who had been in a lot of movies that I liked. I could rarely recognize a person out of context then, and it is still hard today. Some days I am even surprised when I see my husband (of nearly 12 years) in a picture, and it takes me a while to place him. I guess that also has to do with my autism, but I never knew it before.

So I looked at this person, who looked like someone I thought I knew, and he looked at me. He smiled and picked up his pack. But what if he wasn’t that person, and suddenly I was faced with a stranger getting into my car?

I was only going not a minute up the street, but if it was the person I was thinking of, and he needed to go to the next town or something, I would have taken him (as long as he was willing to drive – due to my performance anxiety thing.) But if he wasn’t that person, I couldn’t handle taking a strange man even 1 minute up the street… and what would I have said to him? Words are hard, too.

The strong likelihood is that it wasn’t who I thought it was. There seems to be little reason why he would be trying to hitchhike on the highway since he drives. Even if there was trouble with his car, and he needed to get somewhere, he knows hundreds of people in this town who he could ask to take him where he needed to go.

Even though it probably wasn’t him, in my usual fashion I have been obsessing about this, and feeling guilty over it all afternoon. Should I have stopped?

Now that I know I have Autism, I also know that I wouldn’t want to be “cured.” It is who I am, not some disease that I have. There are some aspects, however, such as this struggle with recognizing faces, which at times I could do without.

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