Monday, August 8, 2011

Autistic Sense Of Self

A few years ago I was watching an informative piece on TV about the development of autism.  One part really stuck with me that made a revelation in my mind that has been rattling wondering what it could fully mean.  I felt I was on the verge of a vast and complicated canyon full of information that would keep my ever thinking brain wrapped up for some time.

They spoke of a child being able to know they were a separate being from their surroundings and know that their reflection in the mirror was indeed them. This milestone should be in place by 9-12 months in most typically developing children.  The way this was tested was that they put a dot of lipstick on the baby's forehead and let them look at themselves in the mirror.  If the baby knew that the reflection was of themselves they would try to wipe their forehead to get the dot off, or at the least investigate the mysterious thing on their face that doesn't belong.  If they were still self unaware they'd try to wipe the mirror, signaling to the adults they were not aware of the dot being on their own head.

So, this was interesting, as children with autism don't seem to have this ability, at least not until much later.  I then thought that of the fact that most children on the spectrum (and some adults) don't refer to themselves in first person.  This is now being backed up by science using an FMRI to analyze the parts of the brain autistic individuals use to process language referring to self.

The subject of Sense of Self came up in a forum that I frequented and I have since brought it up in several others, as it's one of infinite interest to me.  It's always the females on the autism spectrum who delve in to discuss the subject of owning one's self and what this might mean to us, vs typical people.  The males almost never participate, even as the forum pages grow sometimes into the 20's as us ladies philosophizes.  Sometimes, they might poke their head in, announce they don't know what in the world we're talking about, and make a hasty exit. (which is another facet I'd like to explore- do males on the spectrum have less sense of self than females? If so why?)  Of course, the case may be that males in general are less inclined to engage in debate about what constitutes self.  My husband certainly did not have any desire to discuss it at all with  me. 

I'd like to break this subject down into several posts, as I have a lot I'd like to say on it.  This way I am not posting a novel of a post for everyone to read, which you won't due to short attention spans or time limitations.  So, if you're interested, please stay tuned for part two of Autistic Sense Of Self- Pronouns and Consciousness.