I haven’t done much reading about misalignment of the eyes. I do know that if the eyes are not aligned properly in an infant, stereoscopic vision does not develop naturally. From the picture in the last post, you can see that my brother’s right eye looks off to the side while the left seems fixed on the camera. The strange thing is (as if the weirdly pointing eye is not strange enough) that sometimes his right eye would look at me and the left would do its own thing.
I would like to address how mental blindness affects family members. But first let me summarize Simon Baron-Cohen’s findings detailed in his book Mindblindness.
Baron-Cohen proposes a four-part mechanism required for what he calls mind reading, a term he uses to describe how cues, non-verbal and verbal are combined to allow the observer to correctly interpret social situations, which he calls ‘social chess’. The first mechanism is the Intentionality Detector, whereby the observer perceives an agent that propels itself somehow (i.e., not a random event). The second mechanism is the Eye Direction Detector, which notes the direction of the other’s gaze and what the other is looking at. The third mechanism is the Shared Attention Mechanism where relationships of the self to the agent and to a third object or agent can be formed. The fourth mechanism is the Theory of Mind Mechanism. This is a system that uses information from the other mechanisms to construct a representation of mental states of other agents and generate a theory of meaning among relationships in the ‘social chess’ game.
Furthermore, Baron-Cohen suggests that there are neuroanatomical analogs of these mechanisms and identifies them in his text. He also cites animal and human studies where brain damage in these areas was associated with corresponding behavioral deficits as predicted by his theory.
So what does all this complicated theory have to do with family relationships?
I can only imagine what it is like to be a parent of an autistic child. However I would assume that it would be very difficult to believe that a child does not know that other people are people and not objects. Having observed my own parents, I can imagine the frustration of a parent who endlessly continues trying to reach an unreachable child. If a child is missing a leg it is easy to understand why he or she cannot walk unaided. If a child is missing the neurological equipment to process any part of the mechanism described above, he or she must be reached in a different way. The fact that something is missing is a realization to which a parent must arrive.
Among the disabilities of my own brother, I am sure that mind blindness is among them. Perhaps it was his eyes that confused me. I never knew which of them perceived me or if either of them did. Was his Intentionality Detector working or was I some inert object to him?
What about other siblings? Do you think that siblings of the mentally blind develop enhancements, deficits or distortions in the mind reading mechanisms?
I leave this as an open question. I would love to hear others’ ideas about this.
 Baron-Cohen, S. Mindblindness, MIT Press (1997)