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It is one thing to recognize a courageous act by someone else.  It can be said that recognizing that courage itself takes some courage – the recognizer is likely to be saying to a complete stranger something like “That was a brave thing you just did”.

So what can someone who is autistic or is otherwise struggling with an expressive language disability do when they discern that someone is being courageous? Chatting with anyone, let alone a stranger, is just not in the wheelhouse. What we teach is the student is to close their right fist and point the right thumb upward perpendicular to the fingers. Just for reference, normally the inside tip of the thumb is touching the middle joint of the the middle finger. The fist then touches the chest (gently) over the heart. Then the fist moves two or three inches away from the chest and toward the person whose courage is being recognized.

When a class or the school more formally recognizes someone’s courage we ask them to come to an exhibition. The class will be dressed in formal silks and equipped with eagle-style kwan daos. If the honored guest is entering from stage right, for example, the class will be lined up in single file about 30 inches apart and facing the the right. The kwan dao is in the left hand. As the honored guest walks to his or her seat the students in series will turn ninety degrees left (so back to facing the audience) as the guest passes. The right hand grasps the kwan dao shaft below the left hand and the fingers and wrists are flexed to make the tassel and flag move. The ritual was used years and years ago when the Emperor of all China wanted to impress a visitor. Being saluted in this manner is quite a unique experience.