The term prosopagnosia describes someone’s inability to be able to recognise faces, also known as face blindness or facial agnosia.

Prosopagnosia is a co-occurring condition for some neurodivergent people. It can be debilitating and distressing, causing excruciating social embarrassment and anxiety and subsequent poor mental health, particularly for those who experience more severe prosopagnosia.  Symptoms vary and include some or all of the following:

  • Not recognising people that are familiar
  • Not being able to identify one stranger’s face from the next
  • Not being able to see the difference between a human face and any other object
  • Not recognising their own face

The reason for this is due to damage in the part of the brain that controls memory and facial recognition (obvious really). It isn’t in any way connected to poor eyesight. Prosopagnosia can occur as a result of brain injury, stroke and dementia and other degenerative diseases – these are all as a result of acquired prosopagnosia.

There is another type, known as developmental or congenital prosopagnosia. This type is an inherited neurological condition, present from birth, and this is where its relevance to autism comes in. It is estimated that 36% of autistic people (that don’t also have learning disabilities) have prosopagnosia as a co-occurring condition. This compares with only 2% of non-autistic people (the original research can be found within this article → in Autism Parenting Magazine.

Face Blind UK is a non-profit, UK-based organisation offering support and advice, including a quick quiz, if you suspect you may have prosopagnosia. Click here → for their page offering coping strategies.