When I used to visit Mike at his group home, he would always respond to, “Gimme a high-five.” I don’t know where he picked that up, but he responded reliably, most of the time. Mike is my older brother who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal.
Mike is reacting to Dad’s request for a ‘high five’ in the photo below. At first glance, I thought that Mike’s expression was a kind of exasperated smirk, as if he’s saying, “OK Dad, I’ll high-five you… If I have to…Sigh.”
However, a more detailed examination of Mike’s expression, in the detail below, tells me that my first impression was mistaken. The detail reveals, to me at least, a determination or focus of concentration.
How could I be so wrong? My first impression of Mike’s expression must have been based on my expectation. Perhaps my own relationship with my father actually influenced how I perceived the look on Mike’s face. This is a bit of a shock to me. A big reason for my obsessive photography of my brother was to study moments of our relationship and his interactions with others, moments that eluded me in real time.
But is my second impression any more accurate?
Once again, I am back to the thought that without any knowledge of Mike’s state of mind, there is no way to know with any accuracy what his facial expressions means to him. Taking up an intentional stance in relating to Mike – meaning attributing a mental state to him and successfully predicting his actions – is largely a failure. People, including me it seems, overlay their own sensibilities on him.
My brother, the human Rorschach test.