I have this girl in my class who doesn’t talk, doesn’t do any of the work, never participates or even bring a book. All she does all day is draw unicorns in her notebook and blink at me. Usually I leave these kids alone. I have no idea what trauma, what horror has left the poor wretch such an empty shell unable to relate to others. Usually its prolonged bullying or some unspeakable physical abuse or a really bad divorce which they internalize for the rest of their miserable lives. But since girls are statistically unlikely to bring a gun and mow us all down I tend not to uncork the genie. But yesterday I said, “Veronica, May I ask you a question? What the heck is wrong with you?” She blinked at me and I said, “You have an opportunity to change your life right now! I don’t know what that man did to you or if he is still doing it to you, but I do know that escaping into a fairyland fantasy of unicorns and butterflies will never make you happy!…Do you want to be happy?” She looked down and continued to add shade to her purple unicorn who was, ironically, breaking through a cloud toward a rainbow. I grabbed her wrist and shook it. “Veronica! You can’t live like this any longer! I’m here to help! Come out, Veronica! Come out of that rainbow-unicorn world and join us in the here and now! We will not let the bad man hurt you, I promise!” The entire class was quiet, stealing looks and few snickers, but Veronica didn’t look up from her drawing (though she did flail her arms spastically and screech a little). I was on my knees, starting to cry. The bell rang and Veronica packed up her supplies and left with the rest of the class.
I learned later that Veronica had been wandering away from her special day class and into my class because she is severely autistic. I guess I need to check my roll more often.