Weekend Archives: Going Up?

[What is it about the elevators? Is it the feel you get from going up and down?  Is it the control of going into a closed box and exiting in a whole different place, yet taking no steps?  Maybe, someday, my son will tell me.  For now, I just know – especially with the Christmas shopping season in full swing – that elevators are less challenging than they were only a year ago…  Here is my “Weekend Archives” post on elevators from March 6, 2011.]

It was Saturday morning and we were venturing out for the first shopping day since coming down with the virus from hell a couple weeks ago.  “One up and one down,” my son whispered to me just after I fastened the velcro on his shoes.  “What?” I asked.  He repeated.  “Oh, you want to go one up and down the escalator?  Ok, but just one up and one down.”  I answered.

“No,”  he said, “Elevator.”

This took me by surprise.  We’ve been off the elevator kick now for quite some time.  He was exclusively seeing escalators, with only the slightest dalliance in the elevators, maybe once a month.  This had been the standard operating procedure at our local mall since it was set on fire and partially burned down last October. (Another story- suffice to say – my son was not involved except as a bystander).

Lots of children with ASD have a fascination with elevators.  My son is not nearly advanced as these expert children whose riding in, videotaping of rides and trivia knowledge of elevators, far exceeds that of my four year old.  I don’t know why they love the elevators so.  All I do know is that my 4.5 year old son loves it, and just as quickly, falls apart once inside.  Not always.  But he can get caught in a loop that requires several trips up and down, ending with a meltdown.

There were times when he was younger, before ABA that I would spend a couple hours walking him through the mall so he could ride in every. single. elevator.  I am not exaggerating.  Every elevator.  When he was finally drug away, on occasion, he would go limp, fall to the floor and begin a screaming, crying fit while reciting some phrase or counting until I could pick him up off the floor and carry him to the car.  As he is now over 50 pounds, those days are over.  I will not be carrying him across the mall kicking and screaming, through the parking lot and into the car.  So, of course when he said “elevator”, I cringed.

But knowing we are supposed to confront our fears, and with several months of ABA training, I told him we would go to the mall and ride the elevator but only once, one up and one down.  I told him to repeat it.  “One up and one down,” he said in compliance. Then, like the son of lawyers that he is, he added, “I want to go in the one with the G.”

He was telling me that he wanted to ride in the elevator with “G” marked for the first floor instead of the numeral “1”.  But silly me, having not memorized which elevators at the mall have a “G” and which ones had the “1”, I had to guess which one he was talking about.  First, of course, I asked.

“Mommy doesn’t remember.  Which one has the “’G’?” I asked.

“The one that…..the one with the G and the gold thing,” he answered.

Ever so helpful, don’t you think?  As far as I knew, none of them were gold and I did not know what the “gold thing” was.  I asked if he meant the elevator in the middle of the mall by Penney’s.  What was I thinking?  Like he knows where Penney’s is.  But, my son responded “Yes.”

I was not entirely convinced that the elevator outside the Penney’s at our mall did have a “G” instead of a “1” but I knew that was where we were headed.  It had always been one of his favorites because it was extra large and deep and he runs inside of it when we are the only ones in there.

At the mall, we headed to the beloved elevator.  I always pray that no one else is getting in or out to avoid the stares and the dirty looks.  He ran to the call button for the elevator.  Putting his face right next to the buttons, he pushed the “two” button with the requisite urgency.  He was also deeply into some self-talk.  After pressing the button, he ran over to the opening for the door and stood, pacing a bit, waiting for the door to open.  When he realized it would not open immediately, he yelled out the standard, “Fire truck”, his f-word.  He always yells this loudly when he is made to wait.


As usual, I attempted to hold him back, away from the elevator door, so others could get out before we got in.  Thank God, no one was inside.  The little guy darted right in.  He headed straight for the panel of buttons and immediately pressed the “two”.  Then, pointing he said, “What’s that?”  first pointing toward the picture of a bell and then to the picture of a telephone.

First, I had relief that he moved his finger away from the alarm.  He’s already pushed that one before.  Even though pushing it again turns it off, I’ve learned that pushing it causes the phone inside the elevator to ring.  Mall security calls to assure that everyone is ok inside the elevator.

When he started pointing at the telephone, he started to recite what he hears his friend, Jessica say when she answers the phone at our office.  “Good morning, Law Firm. This is Jessica.  How may I help you?”  We tell him to say his own name but he simply repeats her name instead.  This was the self-talk on the way up.

Next, while looking at his finger pointing, I realized that this elevator did not have the letter “G” for ground floor.  It had a “1”.  I sighed.  I knew that technically, the little baby lawyer knew he had me because of the specification, within his oral contract, that he would limit himself to “one up and one down” in the “G” elevator and not if I messed up and took him in a “1” elevator.

True to form, he asserted his next destination was the elevator outside of our local Sears, which, he now informed me had the “G” rather than the one.  I relented.  He had not been to the mall in quite a while.  I was in no hurry to get anywhere.  We walked to the elevator by Sears.  Well, actually, I walked. In the last 50 feet, he skip-ran to the elevator, increasing the distance between the two of us.

After he pushed the call button, again, I tried to hold him back.  Again, he darted inside when the door opened – only this time there were about 10 people inside. A couple families and their children with strollers.  I had to pull him back out while they exited, all the while getting “fire truck’ed” by my kid and the usual array of dirty looks.  This time those dirty looks were accompanied by a “Did he really do that?”  which I ignored.

We went up, by ourselves, luckily.  As soon as the door opened to the 2nd floor, my son wanted to get out, push the outside button for the first floor and get in and push the “G”.  Unfortunately, there was a Spanish-speaking mom, her daughter, son and a baby in a stroller waiting to get in.  I held back my son and the other family got in.  My elevator operator pushed the “G”, and down we all went in “relative” silence, my son self-talking as we descended.  The family got out first.  We followed.

I must say that I was proud that he had no complete breakdown and walked away after the agreed upon “one up and one down” but if I’m going to negotiate any more elevator rides, I better start taking inventory of the details. Otherwise, the kid will get me every time.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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26 Responses to Weekend Archives: Going Up?

  1. Great job on the negotiations, mom… I like how you handled the “one up, one down!” And once again, your little man amazes me with his self control and intelligence.

    Right now, Kaia is on the escalator kick and I’m going to have to steal your technique with the verbal contract. The other night, she and her daddy had to do the escalator about five times before we could get her to leave Macy’s.

    Glad you’re feeling good enough to venture out — enjoy the rest of the weekend!

    • solodialogue says:

      Oh Karla, you are so sweet! Self-control is a huge battle and trust me, if it wasn’t for a new distraction, I don’t know if he would have been so easy!! I got lucky but,hey, I’ll take it! I know all about the escalators! Guess who started out with those escalators? Yes. And he used to completely melt down when we took him away. The ABA has broken him of that – that’s one of the reasons I love them so much. Let me know how it goes in your “negotiations”!

  2. I’m not sure what the fascination is about with elevators, either. I loved elevators as a kid, but not to the level of obsession. I just thought it was cool that you could move up and down just by pushing a button (or having the elevator operator push one for you…yeah…I’m that old).

    I don’t get the dirty looks thing, either. In all the 18 years of my daughter’s life, I’ve never shot a dirty look at a kid or a kid’s parents. If there was a problem, I used my words. (Imagine!) After all, unless the kid is being outright mean (as in bullying someone), a kid is just being a kid, doing the best they can.

    But adults are fire-trucking weird creatures, sometimes. 🙂 I’m glad you don’t let them get you down.

    • solodialogue says:

      Hey! I remember those elevator operators too! Don’t they still have them in some older buildings in New York? How about that for a job? My son would go nuts if he knew there was a job like that! Lol!! Adults can be fire truckers, I agree! 😉

  3. What is it with elevators? My son loves them too- he’s a little wary of escalators- fun to watch, not so sure if they are fun to ride.

    Your little guy seems so smart and charming- I love reading about him!

    • solodialogue says:

      Thank you Heather! I have no idea what it is about the elevators! Thank goodness, we only go in the ones that have 2 floors, normally. When he sees buttons that go up to 16 floors he wants to push them all. And we get to share those episodes with so many more people…

  4. Lynn says:

    I don’t think that my daughter will ever learn to let people get out before she barges in the elevator. She’s not obsessed with them, but there are so many land mines associated with them…knocking people over to get in, pushing people aside so that she can press the button, wanting to push all of the buttons (including the alarms). etc. I’m almost glad that she’s more obsessed with escalators.

    • solodialogue says:

      The knocking people over and pushing all the buttons is something I haven’t missed these last few months. But we’re in a comeback mode with many events right now. Who knows why?

  5. Nancy says:

    First off, absolutely adorable little boy!
    We still prep for anything outside our 4 walls. Verbal paired with written most often. It doesn’t always work perfectly depending on outside forces but without it I imagine things would be much worse. Like the elevator ride we do this for things like the sky ride at the zoo otherwise we’d never see anything but from an areal view. 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      Thank you. I’m partial to the little guy myself. I’m a firm believer that prep is essential. However, when he throws in details I miss… well, I learn things from my kid every day.

  6. Big Daddy says:

    As you may know, my boy is obssesed with elevators and elevator videos. He’s learned proper elevator manners over time. But still casues quite a sdcene with his maniacal laughing and flapping.

    He would love the picture of the vintage beauty at the top of this post.

  7. bbsmum says:

    I was reading this getting really worried in case something went wrong. But it was a happy ending! You know you’re an autism parent when your idea of an edge-of-you-seat thriller is a story about a kid in an elevator! 😀

    • solodialogue says:

      So funny and true! A couple people told me they were worried about a bad ending. It’s true. We had a good day! Funny how our stress levels leave us on the edge of our seats like that. I completely relate. 🙂

  8. eof737 says:

    You did an amazing job capturing moments with your camera. I loved the inside elevator ones of your son; very cute. I don’t know why the elevator fascination but I suspect the movement and noise might have a hand in it. 🙂
    insightful sharing.

    • solodialogue says:

      I remember when I was a kid I would get this feeling in my stomach, kind of butterflies in a good way, when I would ride in the elevator. The movement would cause it. I wonder often if it is this sensation that he seeks. From your perspective, you make me wonder. Thanks Elizabeth!

  9. Julie says:

    Great job!

    Dylan loves elevators too. I’ll never forget, we were on the elevator down to his day care which, at the time, was in my building. I was in the process of teaching him to allow ladies off first (something no one ever taught his father). Well, this is when he was really showing his SPD signs (about 2.5) and a little girl had gotten on the elevator with us. She was in a skirt and knee socks. Before I could do a thing, he stepped up to the girl (who was about 4) and ran his hands up the back of her legs. She jumped and squeeled, the mother shot me the look from hell and all I could do was stiffle my giggle and chastise Dylan. I told his teachers in the classroom an that when I found out that he was feeling up anyone in shorts or a shirt.

    • solodialogue says:

      Julie, I’m so glad to see you here. Dylan has quite the good deal there riding the elevator to daycare!! So funny about his checking out the ladies at 2.5!! My little guy – off and on- has a foot and calf fettish…sounds quite similar. (Sigh!) We have our hands full!

  10. Flannery says:

    What a cutie. Glad you negotiated your way through the trip successfully. Who wouldn’t love an elevator…it’s a magic box that takes you to new and exciting places!!

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks! Love and obsession- where do you draw the line? Oh, for me I guess it’s when you’ve been up and down every elevator in the mall 25 out of 30 days of the month. Oh yeah, those were the days. Luckily, we seemed to have cut back on that…

  11. Teresa says:

    Loved your elevator tale. As mom to a 28 y/o I could relate all too well. Fortunately, my son now runs to the back of the elevator and hangs on. We no longer have to grab for hands that like to push all the buttons. Funny though, I had forgotten about all the escalator rides taken at our local mall. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down… As he got bigger he wanted to go by himself but for a mom it was too scary to even contemplate. What would I do if he suddenly was distracted by something at the other end? How fast could I climb over the other shoppers to reach him???
    Our children are special…and entertaining. My son reminds me daily to appreciate the little things.

    • solodialogue says:

      Thank you for coming here Teresa! Matthew is 28 now? I just commented at your blog on how to accept our little ones as social guests thinking this was a current picture!! Funny how the behaviors are so consistent, isn’t it? Mine too loves the escalator as well and we would get caught on many a loop with him there resulting in ugliness for the removal. Not anymore!! Love the ABA – got this behavior so much more under control now!!

      • Teresa says:

        Funny, I usually use current pictures but last week I was searching for a letter my now college daughter wrote grandma years ago and I came across all kinds of treasures.
        ABA programs were just coming into use when our son was young. They, and DAN doctors really are helpful for families with children on the autism spectrum. My story yesterday was brought to mind by the visit of a friend whose daughter is terribly aggressive and challenging. Unfortunately, the friend has chosen a different path for her daughter and too often suffers from the poor behavior. It is very important for our children to understand behavior limits before they grow bigger than us.
        I’m following you now on Twitter an am looking forward to your continued successes!

      • solodialogue says:

        That is truly a key about having the child understand behavior limits before they grow bigger than us. I’m trying my best but it’s good to see a post like yours to help me along sometimes. Thanks.

  12. Broot says:

    I’m glad the “G” elevator was found on only the second try!

    Guess what? I’m back into wordpress (finally!). Now trying to catch up on everything I’ve missed and post something.

    Well told story. 🙂

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