Mirror Mirror on the Wall...
Who's the cutest of them all?
Babies love mirrors.
Mirrors allow babies the ability to see
their world in a whole new, unique way
from a different perspective.
Mirror play and exploration allows a baby
the ability to learn and make sense of their
world through the use of additional input.
Mirrors give a baby and child the ability
to take in information in a self-absorbing
way that is as mesmerizing as is educational.
My own child, Matthew, who has complete Agenesis
of the Corpus Callosum, loved mirrors and still
does. In fact, he was fascinated with mirrors.
He would spend a great deal of time in front of
a mirror watching himself open his mouth, and
move his mouth.
Many speech therapists use mirrors in speech
Mirrors were also used often by my child's Speech
and Physical Therapists during therapy sessions
when he was younger.
As Matthew got a little bigger I began to notice
how often his attention would be captured by
his own reflection in a mirror or in another
reflective surface such as the black panel on
the front of our dishwasher.
At first, I thought maybe it was a little too
much and I wondered why he would spend so much
time looking into mirrors.
Then I began to see and realize that, for Matthew,
a mirror and other reflective surfaces became his
window into making sense of his own self.
At that time (during this reflective exploration-
play) he used his upper body and his arms good
but he didn’t move his legs as much.
He would sit in front of the reflective diswasher
panel with his legs outstretched (while I was busy
in the kitchen) and he would move his legs in front
of that black reflective panel over and over while
watching himself. It was fascinating to me to
watch him exploring and learning. Matthew was
well past the typical baby/toddler time while this
exploration was going on.
I realized, and it made sense to me, that this
reflective surface and mirror exploration time
is the input that is helping him learn. It was
and still is an important way for Matthew to receive
much needed input in order to make a connection
and learn something new.
In addition to mirror time, Matthew also benefits
from Mommy being his mirror. When he was very
small I would sit him on my lap facing me.
(Now that he is older and too big to sit on my lap
facing me I get down in front of him face-to-face).
I choose a word or a sound and very slowly say the
word or sound with long, exaggerated movements
of my mouth breaking down the word into tiny
Matthew was fascinated with this interaction
between us just like with the mirror time. We
did this (and still do this interactive learning
play) often. He will watch my mouth intently as
it moves slowly. Sometimes he will just watch,
then sign "more" when I am done. He may even sign
"more" many many times but he needs that repetition
and craves it. Sometimes he will just watch,
sometimes he will attempt to slightly move his
mouth, sometimes he will move his mouth and make
a sound. I always encourage him to try to make
the sound or word when I am finished by saying
"Matthew do it" and then give him the opportunity
to try it. Even if he just makes an attempt to
mimic in some small way, I praise him and encourage
him to continue to try to make the sound.
And, over the years it has helped Matthew learn
in several ways.
Through the hours spent in front of a reflective
surface, he learned to become aware of his own
legs and discovered that he had the ability to
move his legs and control them in different ways.
He began using his legs better.
Through a year of watching himself in the car
window reflection (nearly every day when I would
pick him up from school) and watching mommy SAY
“bye bye”, then trying it for himself or just
watching and maybe attempting to move his mouth
he said his first word.
That year of input in front of the reflection of
himself and Mommy in the car window with repeated
“bye byes” was crucial input for Matthew and what
he required in order to make connections, process
it and then be able to say it…his first word at
almost 6 years old.
Today, Matthew still receives wonderful input
from seeing his own reflection in a mirror
or other reflective surfaces. I welcome it,
encourage it and love it because it's his
own discovery and it serves a purpose and
aids in his ability to learn.
The art of reflecting back may indeed bring to
light some hidden consistencies you see in your
own child that open the door to a method and
discovery for how to more effectively help your
own child in self discovery, new skills and be
helpful tools for educational purposes.
Your own child may not be fascinated with mirrors
or reflections but there are more than likely
other wonderful ways and methods that they need
to help them learn.
I believe that if you pay close attention, allow
yourself to be open to the many things that your
child is doing (that may even seem or appear to
be a little unusual or different to you or I) and
if you look deeply enough you may very well
discover a valuable tool that your own child has
discovered for himself or herself that is just
right for them and exactly what they need to help
them process and learn new skills.
You quite possibly might even discover a brand, new
exciting teaching tool or method that works for your
child as a result of taking one step back and just
observing very carefully.