The parents of an autistic child often use the same strategy as parents of a neurotypical child to resolve a public behavior situation…… bribing the child. However, being a parent of both a neurotypical child and autistic child at times I forget that this strategy can have different implication depending on the son.
Recently I took Jackson to Home Depot. It was my fourth trip to Home Depot that same day as I was replacing landscape in 109-degree temperatures throughout the day. I was hot, sore, frustrated, dirty and smelly and destined to offend anyone I came in contact with. Knowing that Jackson would probably benefit from an activity, I had him come with me to Home Depot understanding that I probably could not offend him with my odor or attire.
Unfortunately, while at Home Depot, Jackson had an autistic moment. I don’t know if it was the heat, sensory overload, or just a random thought, but he was in a difficult place. It was at that moment that I resorted to the bribing strategy, but what could I give him that would have an immediate impact? Before I could answer my own question Jackson asked to ride an elevator. That was it. Yes…. Yes…. We will ride an elevator. If you are a good boy, we will ride an elevator real soon. This here is where this strategy has different implications depending on my sons. With my eldest son, we would ride the elevator sometime during the week or maybe even next weekend, but with Jackson, we said to ride the elevator so we must ride the elevator immediately following Home Depot.
There would be no going home until Jackson had his elevator experience. He co-piloted the driving directions from Home Depot to the local theater. We parked at the top of the parking structure and walked to the elevator. Jackson pushed the button and smiled from ear to ear as the elevator doors opened and we stepped inside to ride it down to the lower level. As the doors opened Jackson could not look happier and I could not have looked worse. It was at that moment I heard; oh look its David & Jackson. Hi Guys.
Some close friends were out trying to escape the heat and enjoy a movie. They asked what we were doing today (probably curious by my filthy appearance) to which I replied; riding elevators.
It was an inconvenient and somewhat embarrassing experience, but in the end, it did bring peace to Jackson and was probably the physical break I needed to an otherwise exhausting day.