Facial Recognition Breakthrough for those with Autism

Continuing our exploration of color and
, Scottish optometrist Ian Jordan has developed the very first treatment for face blindness. Face blindness,
also known as prosopagnosia, impairs the ability of people to recognize faces and facial expressions. Common in autism, it feeds into
the difficulties of reading facial expressions and social cues.

Experts believe the condition is a result of the ability to process visual information being damaged or not fully developed. In other words, some of the information that the brain requires to make sense of what the eyes are seeing is missing or distorted.

Mr. Jordan has developed a method of creating individualized lenses, which he happened upon while treating a patient with sensory processing disorder. With a specialized lighting system consisting of a range of 16 million colors, he is able to alter the patient’s ability to process what they see. By filtering out some colors and enhancing others, a normally distorted face suddenly becomes recognizable. Once the right balance of colors is struck, relatively inexpensive colored lenses can be made for that individual. 

The implications of his discovery are profound. As he himself relates, “Some people are able to piece together a person’s identity by recognizing the way they walk, or the sound of their voice, but the prospect of meeting and having to identify new people, either socially, at work or at school, can be very distressing – particularly so for those on the autistic spectrum.”

Mr. Jordan is presenting his findings at an upcoming Treating Autism conference in London. People with prosopagnosia are flocking to his office for evaluations and those that have received lenses report an enormous improvement in the quality of their