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Friday, May 1, 2015

Are You Still Mad at Me?

I'm going to head back in my imagination to the Christian elementary school I attended in Pennsylvania. The rules were strict, but I loved school and seldom got into trouble. Until . . .

One day at school after gym class, we waited in line in the hallway for our teacher to lead us back to our classroom. There was a lot of whispering and talking going on, which we all knew was against the rules when standing or walking in line. I knew those kids who were talking were going to get in trouble.

One of the ways we communicated without talking was to finger spell using the sign language alphabet. I decide to get the attention of my best friend, in line behind me. She was one of the few who were NOT talking. I finger spelled "Q-U-I-E-T," but she just shook her head at me, so I spelled it again. She still didn't get it,

Along came our teacher, and she was determined to call out those who had been talking. She started at the front, pointed to one child after another, looking them in the eye, and telling the culprits, "Go back to the classroom and hide your head in your arms at your desk."

The teacher came up to me and demanded, "Were you talking?" I solemnly shook my head no.

Then she came to my best friend, who feel she needed to mention: "Sharon Rose was using sign language."

The teacher whipped around and told me, "Go bury your head!"

My eyes widened, my eyebrows rose, and I spun on my heel and flounced off. To me, the unfairness was tense with irony. I thought the rule was to be quiet - not to refrain from communicating! I had misunderstood the rule - and I loved going by the rules - even when others did not.

I didn't speak to my best friend for the rest of the day, which was almost over anyway.

The following morning at school, my friend lost no time in asking me, "Are you still mad at me?"

I shook my head, then smiled.

That was when in dawned on me - I had been mad! Is THAT why I hadn't been behaving like my usual self? Being mad was not something I experienced very often, probably because of being an only child. I had used non-verbal communication to let my friend know I was mad at her - and I hadn't even had any practice.

These kind of stories make me "mad" at those who insist that all those on the autism spectrum should be in therapy. We sometimes do express our emotions appropriately, even naturally. It's something we can definitely overthink. Sometimes life experiences are simply something we learn from and decide from a new viewpoint how we'd like to express ourselves, verbally and non-verbally in similar situations in the future.


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