Sunday, March 25, 2012

GBE2 Challenge: Mirror

This family has a significant amount of trouble getting out the door.

A child is walking at a snail's pace.

Another is going through a million OCD rituals before it feels "right" to leave.

Ooops! Someone forgot a comfort item up in his bedroom

"Hon, have you seen my car keys?" I just love that question. Sigh.

Chat. Chat. Chatchatchatchatchatchat inserts our younger son into the mix, deciding that a dissertation on the Japanese railway system was just the thing to discuss before we walked outside.

Today was not much different and yet at the same time a world apart from our usual departure.

I stood at the door, holding it open, when my husband rounded the corner without our older son.

"Where is he?" I asked.

"Looking at himself in the mirror," my husband said. "And lovin' every minute of it!"

It couldn't be, could it? Were we really being delayed by our older son looking in the mirror? Really?

In that very moment, I was taken back in time more than eight years ago when he was officially diagnosed with autism, his first of many diagnoses.

Cramped in a clinical office entirely too small for our Energizer Bunny, we watched as a developmental psychologist pulled out one object after another to measure our son's reaction. With each failed test, my disdain for this man grew.

This was lame.

Bubbles are lame.

Toy cars are lame.

I'm rearing Einstein here. Challenge this child, already! Seriously, a mirror? Now he's pulling out a mirror? This guy is a quack!

Silently, I willed our son to grab that mirror. C'mon, darn it! Grab it! Show interest in it! I don't know why it is important, but JUST DO IT!!

He did not do it.

At that time in his life, he showed no interest in any person around him, much less that person staring back at him from inside the mirror. I felt as though I'd been punched in the stomach.

Actually, mirrors are a pretty useful-but certainly not definitive-test when considering an autism diagnosis. A Mirror Self Recognition Test is used to determine if a child can pick out a reflection in a mirror and relate to it as his own. Does he stick out his tongue in order to see it in the mirror? Does he furrow his brow, touch it and look at the effect in his reflection? Or, does he do what our son had done with mirrors over the years?

He ignored them completely for an agonizingly long time.

As a young mom to autism, I viewed mirrors as a sad reminder of the mountains we had yet to scale. And, when that day finally arrived when he finally did start to notice the mirrors in his environment, he still wouldn't look at himself. Instead, he'd take note of other objects in the room and how they appeared in the mirror. He'd turn the mirror on its side or upside down to test if the objects still looked the same.

I'm not sure that anyone could ever imagine how it could be that something seemingly so benign as a mirror could cause a young mom to special needs such sorrow. But, for me, it did.

For years, I've had very few mirrors in our own home. I don't know that I did it intentionally, but, perhaps on some level I did. And, because we were fighting so many battles on so many fronts, I can't tell you when it was that I finally started to face the battle of the mirror.

I don't remember when, but I remember how.

I started with hand-held mirrors that could go in the bathtub. Then, I got mirrors that stood on their own and could be placed at the breakfast table, art table or anywhere else in the house. I placed tall mirrors within reach, so that our son could stand in front of them and see themselves in all his fine glory.

I put hammer and nail to plaster, actually hanging some mirrors on our walls. Then I placed mirrors in bedrooms. I opened up this house and allowed our son to SEE. It was subtle. It took time. And, it also took countless hours of therapy in other areas of his life.

As with everything, it takes chipping away at the problem with the results not immediately visible.

Until one day, as in today, it struck me that we were waiting for our son to leave the house because he was admiring himself in the mirror.

On this issue, we have come full circle.

This entry was written in response to the word prompt "mirror", issued by The Group Blogging Experience 2 (GBE2).


  1. Yes. You have. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Drat! I'm sure you read this as I found a million typos! SORRY! And, thank you. I know that you, particularly with your background, understand what this means to us.

  2. Amy, don't ever worry about typos. Your words are so touching and yet heart-wrenchingly beautiful that no one would ever notice. Great post.

  3. that's great, amy. and thanks for the lesson about what a valuable tool the mirror is....

    1. Thank you for always reading. I really appreciate it.

  4. I notice. And there are still a few.

    But even through my teary eyes I see something else Amy. First of all I see that I was absolutely ignorant of all things autistic until I started reading your blog last year. Thank you for sharing your complex world with such clarity and good heart.

    More than the clinical nature of the children's conditions, but the real life experience of characters being challenged and overcoming, again and again. I've probably said this before, but I see an image of God in the enduring love and kind patience and diligent thoughtful attention you and your husband practice in your home.

    I do have one criticism though; I wish you would expound a little more about what you've learned about the Japanese railway system!

    1. Mike, I hear your urge to improve my writing, and I'll do it! :) I also thank you for always seeing the force that drives us through our challenges in this house, which as corny as it sounds is our love for our kids. Sometimes, even when our other resources are gone, we seem to be able to remember why we are here together. We aren't perfect, but we are a family for a reason. Thank you for your kind words of support.

      As for the Japanese railway system, UGH! I tune it OUT!!!!

  5. Love your posts, and while I would not want to take your place, I always envy the way you handle it with grace and love. Too many parents with offpsring challenges a lot less complicated than yours, act as if they are climbing Mt. Everest with a piano on their backs.

    1. I love how you said that, "...act as if they are climbing Mt. Everest with a piano on their backs."

      You have such a way with words.

      Yes, some people do act this way. Perhaps that is their own grief showing? I don't know. We just do what we do and let others be.

      Thank you very much.

  6. How incredible it is that a single word like mirror can trigger so many memories, emotions, challenges, and signs of hope.
    Love it. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Isn't it true? That's the beauty of these challenges! I am thankful for anyone taking the time to read this entry in particular because I know that many not living this life would even think that something like a mirror could have such an impact.

      Thanks for sharing it on your blog. I've subscribed and also friended you on Twitter. You can find me there at the address listed on the right sidebar above my picture.


  7. This is an amazing post, loved reading it!

  8. Congratulations! Small steps are huge steps for children like ours. I still remember the first time my son waved bye to me - I think I cried for about 10 minutes, because it was such a huge milestone. He was 5. I never thought about mirrors, although I have to admit that I've been looking a lot in them myself lately, looking for the wrinkles that should be there, thanking God for these small blessings. I've certainly earned a zillion of them! I guess I thought of mirrors as more of a breakable dangerous item. I haven't read anything about your son(s) having any meltdowns that have required physical restraints. And, that's a very good thing! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Really beautiful. <3 You are such an amazing family! Your son is very lucky.

  10. Pretty much every time I visit you, I'm reminded of how the smallest things can become hugely significant, under the right circumstances and the older I get the more I realize how little I know. We walk in such different shoes, each and every one of us. I absolutely believe that we are the same at the core, but every layer that surrounds that is distinct and unique. A wonder, this life and we humans living it.

  11. It's interesting and kind of sad that I don't remember when my children or my grandchildren recognized themselves in a mirror. A momentous occasion that I simply took for granted. But we take so many things for granted when we have children--until we can't take them for granted. So glad your son is enthralled with himself now.

    And I'm sure you now know all about the Japanese railway system. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about Hapsburg Germany (not even sure I spelled that right). But my Aspie grandson was high scorer on his Scholastic Bowl team, and they won all their matches this year. Not only that, but he finally let his mother cut his hair!

    1. A haircut! I hope you got pictures??? Do you think he'll do it again any time soon?

  12. A mirror as a tool to help them develop, who woulda thunk that? I guess self recognition is something I have watched out kids do and always found it fascinating when they figure out that is them looking back, but my favorite story is when one of the girls at about a year old said, as I held her in front of our large bathroom mirror, "That's Grama Jo in there AND back here, too! And that's me. I'm not back there, though." And sure enough I turned around to look and she was NOT back there!

    Isn't it awesome that he likes what he sees in the mirror? I think that's huge. ♥

  13. It amazes me how something as small as looking in a mirror could become such a major milestone and victory. Bless his heart he finally sees himself in the mirror and must like what he sees. Celebrate these victories in your son's life and revel in the joy!! I love reading your experiences and how well you handle your life. This post is so enlightening, uplifting and so full of pure joy. It made my day just reading it. Loved it.


    1. Kathy, thank you so much for reading this! This is the type of entry which I know would spread even the smallest awareness to the mainstream community of how seemingly small things can actually mean so much to a special needs family.

      Perhaps it is the change in even the small things that makes adjusting to this life so difficult for some. I know that they were hurdles for me.

      Thank you for reading and recognizing! :)

  14. I can imagine how uncomfortable you felt around mirrors for a while. Now, when you don't want him to be distracted by the mirror, so you won't be late, he's gotta be looking at himself in the mirror...typical kid ;)

    On a serious note, I'm sure his progress is due to your unbelievable patience and dedication. You and your husband are amazing!

  15. Deeply moving, Amy. I'm so happy for your step at a time...

    1. Sometimes the steps happen without fanfare, catching you off guard. I'm so glad that I didn't miss it! Thank you!