Written for Firefly Friends
You may call it an elevator or you may call it a lift. This depends on which country you live in but essentially it does the same thing, transporting people between floors of a building.
A multi sensory experience
For someone with autism, especially with sensory seeking behaviours, a ride in a lift is a multi sensory experience. For Isla it is one of her favourite places but also where her differences are amplified.
Isla has always been drawn to lifts. When younger she would happily get in on her own with no regard where it may take her.
These days, although a little more cautious, everything about a lift appeals to her need for sensory input. She delights in pushing the buttons and seeing them light up and the noise they make. She enjoys the different lighting and the mirrors sometimes decorating the walls. She loves watching the doors open and shut. She loves the movement and noise of the lift moving up and down the lift shaft. She cannot contain her excitement and her stimming overtakes her body in full force.
I love seeing how such a simple thing can cause her so much joy.
A place where differences are amplified
My normal coping strategy when out and about is to avoid eye contact at all costs focussing totally on Isla and sometimes Bo, her Assistance Dog, when he is out with us. However being in such a confined space it is impossible to ignore people’s reactions. There is a feeling that Isla is making the other occupants uncomfortable with her unusual, expressive behaviour. This is turn makes me feel uncomfortable.
A short elevator ride seems to last a really long time. This is especially true if Isla has pushed all the buttons and we stop at every floor!.
There is no time to explain that for Isla this is the equivalent of an exciting ride at an amusement park. That her excited biting and loud “eeeeee-ing” is a way she expresses pure joy. That even though she is 10, her mind is as old as your toddler who is understandably put out when Isla races to push the buttons. I want to say all this but there isn’t enough time and I often stand in silence either pulling down Isla’s arms and ssshhhing her. Maybe adding “she’s really excited” when there is no containing her.
I always wonder what impression Isla has left on these strangers and what they may tell their children when they ask “what’s wrong with that girl?”. But most of all I just wish they could share in her absolute delight that most of us are unable to feel by just taking a simple ride in a lift!