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Difficulty with faces - should I be concerned?

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My 11 yo has some trouble recognizing the differences between people's faces. For example, this dc will say that someone looks like someone else we know, just because they both have brown hair, but disregards the very obvious differences in features. This child's vision is better than 20/20, so it isn't the need for glasses. I don't think visual tracking is a problem, as this dc learned to read at 4. So, what causes this, and what can I do to help it get better? Thanks for any input!

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My dh has this problem! It's the weirdest thing. If an actor/actress changes hair from one movie to another, he doesn't notice that it's the same person. Other times, he'll see a similar hairstyle on someone with a totally different face and say they look alike. :confused:

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I have prosopagnosia. It makes my life very difficult.


I'm generally not interested in TV or movies because I can't tell the characters apart.


At church, I can't tell the visitors apart from the every-once-in-a-while-regulars. I'm the pastor's wife, and that is baaaaad.


The best help for me is my husband. When we're in Wal-Mart, if he sees someone before they reach us, he'll say, "So-and-so is coming up to us."


When we don't have time for that, he will deliberately use clues in the conversation to help me pick up where I know them from. Fortunately, I am exceptionally good with names, so if he says their name, it's a big help.


I've gotten to the point where I tell certain people about it, just so they'll know what I'm dealing with. In my experience, though, people think it's pretty weird, and I'm not sure whether they believe me or not.


Is your child a girl? If so, I'll toss an idea out for your consideration -- to this day, I don't wear makeup (and I'm 41). Most prosopagnosiacs don't. What's the point of dressing up something you don't see? As soon as she gets old enough to wear it, be very diligent about showing her how to apply it. I don't notice it on other people, so I can't put it on myself without feeling I look like a clown (even though dh says I don't).


If this is truly your child's problem, you need to realize that it goes waaaaay beyond just being "bad with faces". It's a serious problem for me.


I rely mostly on things like hairstyles and glasses to tell people apart -- but if I see them out of context (like someone from church in Wal-Mart), then I usually can't place them unless I know them very, very well.


I couldn't remember what my husband looked like until after we'd been married for several months. I knew he had brown hair. In my mind, I pictured him as Randy Travis. He looks nothing like Randy Travis.


I can't remember what my children looked like as babies. The only way I can tell their baby pictures apart is because my girls have different hair color -- and the other child is the boy!


I've got to leave the house for a few hours -- but I'll try to get back on this evening with more ideas on how I cope with it and how my husband helps me with it.

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One thing I automatically do is to take stock of someone as soon as I see them -- I notice their clothing, their shoes, their purse, etc, because I can remember those details. Teach your child to notice any distinguishing characteristics like that. Then once he/she figures out who it is, the "Jimmy is wearing an orange shirt today" idea can be filed into his/her brain.


One thing that causes me trouble is when someone gets a new car. If so-and-so is supposed to be driving a green minivan, it will take me a while to associate a blue SUV with that person.


Does your child like having his/her picture taken? I can't stand it. Until my dh went to China this past February, I didn't own a camera. I only bought one at his insistence. This is pitiful, but I will admit to being a mother for 15 years and never owning a camera. My mother lives close enough that most of the important events are immortalized by Grandma, but I don't take pictures myself. Even my blog has very few pictures of my kids -- most of them are of inanimate objects that I have taken for the purpose of an entry. (I've gotten better and am trying to remember to take more pictures -- but I'm really very bad at it.) I just don't see the need for pictures because they don't really mean anything to me. I'm better with pictures taken at events -- a birthday party, for example, because I recognize the setting and can understand what I'm seeing. Portraits, however, are completely useless for me, because there is no context in which to put them, and that makes it nearly impossible for me to recognize the subject -- like I said, I can only tell my kids' baby pictures apart by their hair coloring and their gender, and they're my own children. (My youngest, who will be 7 this month, has only had a studio portrait taken twice in her lifetime, and one of those was at my mother's insistence. I haven't done much better with my older two kids, either. Awful of me, I know, but it's hard for me to remember that those things matter to other people.)


You might want to sit your child down here and see what results you get. Then you'll at least have an idea of whether or not you're facing an actual recognition problem or a paying-attention-to-details problem. ;)


My family does their best to approach it with humor. Recently, I was at my parents' house for a couple of days, and my brother and his wife came over for a visit. My brother came into the room, sat down, grinned, and said, "Hello. I'm so-and-so, and I'm your brother." (I have no problem recognizing family members, and they know that.)


I wish I had some concrete advice to give you. The best thing I can come up with is to train the other members of your family to get very good at name-dropping. It won't help when your child is alone and comes across someone, but it will be invaluable on every other occasion.


If you have any questions, I'll try my best to help.

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I appreciate your input!


Wow, Lorna. Thank you for sharing all of that. I had no idea what a challenging issue this could be. I sure hope my dc's problem is just a lack of attention to details! It certainly wouldn't be the first time!


Thanks, too, for the link to the test. I'll pull it out next week as a fun activitiy, and see how it goes.


Thanks again, everyone!

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Just coming back to clarify something.


I can't picture anybody's face in my mind. For example, my oldest is on her way home from church camp right now -- I can see her body in my mind, but I can't see her face. I know she has blue eyes, freckles, and a retainer. I can see her blue eyes, her freckles, and her retainer each individually in my mind, but I can't see her face as a whole. I can't any more picture what her face looks like than I can picture what your face looks like.


However, I have no trouble recognizing her when I see her. She's my child and she lives in this house. I don't look at a roomful of blue-eyed, freckled, retainer-wearing teenagers and wonder which one is mine. When I see her, I know her. Dd at 15, I always recognize. Pictures of dd at 10, not necessarily so. 10 was too long ago and she's changed too much since then.


My husband is in the next room as I write this. Same thing with him. I can imagine his features, but I can't put them together to imagine his face. However, I don't ever wonder, "Is that my husband?" -- with people I spend a lot of time around, recognizing them when I see them isn't a problem -- but picturing their faces in my mind when I can't see them is a problem.


On the other hand, often people will walk into church, for example, and I'll turn to dh and say, "Is that so-and-so?" -- and he'll have to tell me whether or not I'm right. When I am right, I'm so proud of myself that it's just not funny.


(I'm sure that makes no sense to anybody, but I'm trying to give you a glimpse of what your child may be up against, if it turns out that this is what's going on. Hoping along with you that it's just a lack of attention to details!)


And you're very welcome. Hope it helped a little.:)

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