From wykc news, February 18, 2008

Some people never forget a face. But others can never remember one. Even faces they’ve known since birth. The condition is called prosopagnosia, or face blindness. For Chaz Klawuhn every face he sees is the face of a stranger, including his friends, neighbors, even his wife, Nancy. Klawuhn always knew something was wrong, but didn’t know why he didn’t immediately recognize friends when they greeted him. But it wasn’t until his 30’s, that his stepmother came across a website dedicated to prosopagnosia. “I went to it, and it was me, all over”, Chaz explains.”Most people with prosopagnosia can’t recognize their spouse or children. Sometimes they can’t recognize themselves”, explains Dr. Richard Naugle, a neuropsychologist with the Cleveland Clinic.

The condition occurs one of two ways: as a result of a brain injury, or in Chaz’s case, it’s inherited.

“Just put a blank spot over someone’s face and that’s what I remember. I remember your hair type, your body type, your height, your color of your hair. Things like that, but I cannot remember your face,” Chaz says.

Like many people with face blindness, Chaz has tried to compensate for his condition, choosing a profession that had him on the road and not in an office. And he relies on his wife Nancy to help at larger gatherings, or church. “I’ll tell him, ‘there is so and so’ or ‘here comes so and so,'” Nancy Klawuhn explains.

Chaz decided to speak out about his face blindness, because of the misconceptions he lived with during his younger years. “I was told when I was young that I was kind of standoffish. Because I didn’t say hi to people when I walked past them. And it’s not because I didn’t want to say hi. I didn’t know who they were,” Chaz says.

Today friends and neighbors know the routine. They offer up their names when greeting Chaz, in the store or on the street. And when it comes to greeting his own wife there’s never been a problem. “I told her when I married her 11 years ago, up front and simple. ‘When I come home from work at the end of the day, if there is a redhead in my home, I’m going to kiss her. Because that’s my wife.’ And to this day, she doesn’t have any red-headed friends,” Chaz says.

There is no cure, or treatment for face blindness. Chaz and others have developed coping mechanisms that help them. Some learn to identify people based on hairstyle, voice, the way they walk, or body shape. They may avoid parties or large gatherings. Or some prosopagnosics may hide their disorder by greeting everyone effusively. Either way, they become experts at hiding their condition.

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