Over the course of my life I have seen many kinds of crossing signs. When I go to a college campus I drive past a wildlife sanctuary where a duck crossing sign is posted. Each spring mama ducks line up near their sign and lead their babies across the road while the cars waited. There were lots of ducks and some days the wait for motorists can be up to ten minutes.
Every winter when I drive along a county highway to visit a friend I see a snowmobile crossing sign. A snowmobile trail is on one side of the road. A restaurant is on the opposite side of the road. Snowmobile club members cross the road at their sign and then park their snowmobiles at the restaurant while they are inside.
One summer a new sign was erected by the fire station. It announced to all that indeed the fire trucks would be crossing the road as they came out of the fire station. I personally thought the sign was not necessary. After all the fire trucks had no choice. They had to cross the road when coming out of the station
When my son went to college I discovered several pedestrian crossing signs on his campus. During passing time students would cross at their sign, often in hoards and most of the time seeming oblivious to drivers. They definitely knew they had the right of way!
As a visual thinker who has learned this pattern to crossing signs I really do not appreciate the incongruence school crossing signs impose on my schema. The school is not crossing the road. The children are crossing the road to get to school. This has bugged me all my adult life. I have rationalized to myself that the reason they do not have a children crossing sign or a student crossing sign is because sometimes teachers, parents or other grown ups may cross the road at the sign. Even so, to be in sync and not upset my schema of crossing signs, the correct sign in my opinion would be a pedestrian crossing sign. I understand that school zones are treated differently by law in terms of motorist speeding and fines and thus it seems logical to draw attention to the school zone with a school crossing sign, but to my visual schema this sign is just plain wrong! Do you ever see a school crossing the road by a school crossing sign? I don’t.
A sign that is even worse than the school crossing sign is the deer crossing sign. Even though deer actually do cross the road, they do not cross the road at their sign! I am sure everyone in the world will agree with me on this one. For real – who has ever seen deer, either a single one or an entire herd – line up at their sign to cross the road? It is obvious that deer cannot read. Too bad because if the deer could read perhaps we would not have to see so many of them lying by the side of the road after finding misfortune with a vehicle. Has anyone ever seen one of these deer lying next to their crossing sign? I haven’t. More evidence. Deer do not read. Deer do not cross at their sign. These signs really irritate me – and in Wisconsin where I live it seems of all the crossing signs erected deer have the most.
Something happened recently to inform me. I read a newspaper article that explained these signs. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, deer crossing signs have been erected in places where there have been several deer-motorist mishaps to warn drivers of deer in the area.
Ahhh…the deer crossing signs are not for the deer! They are for the motorist. Hmmm…the snowmobilers read and cross at their sign. That has got to be helpful for them, but the sign is for the motorist. In fact, all the crossing signs are for the motorist! Thanks to my local news crossing signs now make sense to me.
And this just goes to show that no matter how old you are – autism or not – it is never too late to learn new things. Therefore, please refrain from predicting what your child with autism will never learn or will never be able to do when he grows up. The predictions made about me as an institutionalized youngster simply were not true. It took me longer to grow up than it takes most people, but I continued learning well past my school years. In fact, as an autistic woman in her late fifties I continue to learn new things and, in turn, live more comfortably in the world around me.
JUDY ENDOW, MSW