67: The Salutation of Slapping Palms

67: The Salutation of Slapping Palms

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

The Salutation of Slapping Palms

A high-five is done when two people congratulate each other after they achieve success.

~Online Encyclopedia

No one taught Hope the art of the ABA discrete trial or the use of repetition to facilitate learning. Nor has she yet learned to quote that old proverb: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” She does not know the Biblical parable of the persistent widow who continually petitioned an unjust judge until she wearied him into granting her request.

However, she, in all her nineteen months of wisdom, has been employing these principles for one important ambition, that is, what the playwright Daniel Kamenetz referred to as “the salutation of slapping palms.”

Her sister Rhema never stops moving.

But Hope, with her chubby, toddler legs, chases Rhema day after day, week after week, month after month. With her arm raised in the air, Hope calls out imploringly, “High five? High five?”

According to Wikipedia, “If one initiates a high five by raising a hand into the air and no one consummates the celebration by slapping the raised hand, the initiator is said to be ‘left hanging.’ ”

Until today, Hope had always been left hanging.

Rhema has been a tad bit peeved with Hope since the day Hope was born. It was understandable in the beginning: all siblings go through adjustment periods when the new baby arrives. For Rhema, I had always been her means for communicating and getting what she needed or wanted. She was queen of the “autistic leading” technique. Without words, she would simply grab my hand, drag me to the desired object and thrust my hand at it. I believe my preoccupation with Hope as a baby caused Rhema to view her as an intruder and interference, and she has tenaciously held onto that view.

Rhema’s game plan has been to basically ignore Hope’s existence until Hope has a Popsicle. Then Rhema steals the Popsicle.

The response to the plaintive request for a high five has been no response . . . or a fast run in another direction. In the past I have felt bad for Hope — getting dissed and all — so I have offered her a high five. But she shakes her head . . . she doesn’t want it from me; she wants it only from Rhema. I have attempted to tackle Rhema and force her hand to slap Hope’s, but it always reeks of phoniness.

Nevertheless, Hope possesses that defiant boldness and strong devotion that embodies hope. She insists on sharing something with Rhema — not her Popsicle, not her toys — no way! — but a connection, a greeting, an acknowledgement.

Today, finally today, Hope got her breakthrough. She was in hot pursuit when Rhema stopped abruptly, causing Hope to crash into her. Hope stepped back and raised her hand in the air.

“High five?”

Rhema awkwardly, all the while grinning and avoiding eye contact, slapped the palm of her sister.

What word suffices here? Momentous? Stupendous? I cheered like the Red Sox had won another World Series.

Hope, of course, couldn’t get enough and requested high fives all afternoon. And Rhema obliged her every time.

Sistas at last.

~Jeneil Palmer Russell

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