My 6.5 year old is Autistic. He has ADHD and deals with anxiety issues. He is medicated for these conditions to help him face the world every day. Most things I can understand. I can fathom them. I can try to put myself in his shoes to help him get past the problems.
But this one I just can’t figure out. He is MORTALLY TERRIFIED of elevators. About 14 months ago, he decided that the elevator was like the devil incarnate. All of a sudden, just the thought of walking past the elevator was enough to bring out elopement behaviors, tantrums, screaming fits….you name it. It started slowly. And it wasn’t debilitating in any way. Most of the time, we would just simply walk up the stairs. We were never going much past a third floor, so it wasn’t too much for my overweight and out-of-shape self to deal with. We made do, just like we did with everything else.
By the time we were 2 months into this phobia, it had started taking over. My brother was getting married out of state, so we were staying in a hotel. We had to have them move our room because we weren’t going to be able to easily access our room without the elevator, so we were placed on the ground floor. But the only room that was available at that point was near the elevator, and we had to pass it to get outside to our car. Each time, he would start to SCREAM, as though we were torturing him (and, to him, I’m sure we were). In school, he had to walk past an elevator multiple times a week in order to get from his classroom to locations for his specials or other activities. His teacher created social stories to help him walk past and he was even not reprimanded if he ran in the hallways, just so he could get past the elevator quickly (school policy is no running in the hallways).
Throughout the school year last year, we tried everything. We tried avoiding. We tried ignoring his constant perseverations on the subject. We tried repeating what he said when he was verbally stimming about elevators. We tried some YouTube videos about riding in an elevator. But we never forced him to go onto one. We watched him throw fits. I took him to doctor’s offices and had to stand outside for over an hour waiting for him to be willing to walk through the door because he knew he had to pass one of those contraptions (that’s when I would eventually force him inside [he's a big boy and can no longer be carried]). But I never understood what it was that made him so afraid. And, despite being a verbal Autistic child, he really isn’t capable of voicing what it is that causes him such fear and panic. This panic was so great that it prevented him from going to places he would LOVE, like the library (he’s also hyperlexic and books are his favorite things in the world). But the local elevator is over 3 levels and there is an elevator just outside the children’s library. …continue reading