“Given the enjoyment that typically developing children… derive from such engagement [with mirrors], the loss of this opportunity in autism might potentially contribute to further impairments in the development of a sense of self.”
~An interesting study on autism and sense of self
I feel a little silly writing about this. Such a small thing. (Only not).
Rhema has been looking at herself in the mirror.
Years ago, I tried to introduce her to herself.
Holding a mirror in front of her and pointing to her reflection, I’d say, “See you? See beautiful you?”
But such an activity requires joint attention, which until recently has been severely lacking for Rhema. Additionally, we’ve been working on eye contact for years; if it’s uncomfortable for her to look someone in the eye, perhaps it’s more so to look into her own eyes!
When she was two, I was encouraged by an SLP to do “mirror work” with her. I’d sit her in my lap, hold up a mirror, touch her nose and say “nose”, and practice making funny sounds. She would never look directly into the glass, she’d always squirm away.
She was so isolated, so hyperactive. I wondered if her disconnection from us and from her surroundings even extended to an utter disconnection from self.
Does she even know who she is? Can she recognize her own self? How can she ever relate to the world, to others, if she cannot relate to self?
This has long been a concern of mine. I blogged about it three years ago and listed some of the things, the most important things, I hope to teach my daughters about themselves:
• I am created in God’s image and therefore blessed by Him (Gen. 1:27, Gen. 5:1-2)
• God’s hands formed me and made me, and I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 119:73, Ps. 139:13,14)
• The Lord has a purpose for me and He will fulfill it (Ps. 138:8 )
• God loves me so much that He calls me His child (1 Jn. 3:1-2) and He sent His Son to die for me so that I could live with Him forever (Jn. 3:16)
• When I am weak, then I am strong. Christ’s power rests on me in my weaknes, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9,10)
• I belong to God. I am precious and honored in His sight. God loves me and I am created for His glory (Isa. 43:1,4,7)
• I am fiercely valued and forever loved by my family
At some point over the years Rhema figured out that the glass reflects her. Still, she avoided looking in mirrors, as if offended by the reflection. I would hold her in front of the mirror, and sometimes she would glance in its direction. But she never looked for more than a second, never tried to interact with it, or babble or touch her image. Unlike her sister who beams and swirls in the looking glass, Rhema derived no pleasure from seeing her own face.
The other day I came upon her looking in the bathroom mirror. Her eyes were so focused, and she stayed there for several seconds. It was so unlike her, so new… it was like we were both seeing her, recognizing her, for the first time. I held my breath, not wanting to interrupt the moment. My baby is growing up, making so many connections. She is discovering who she is.
She continued to gaze into the glass.
And then she smiled.
She socially interacted with her ‘self’, and she liked it!
Today I got out the same little mirror I used with her when she was two years old. See what she sees:
See you? See beautiful you?
The apostle Paul wrote this of the Lord’s return: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)