Monday, March 22, 2010


I’m known for looking at the positive side of things almost to a fault. If you’re a parent of a child with Asperger’s, PDD NOS or high functioning Autism, you’ve probably learned, like I have, to “forget about the storm clouds and instead learn to dance in the rain” as I’ve heard it aptly put.

The key is adapting. It’s learning to embrace your child’s world, even if it is a unique and candidly really strange one at times. A big part of Benjamin’s world is dedicated to some pretty, well, atypical interests.

First and foremost, Benjamin loves elevators.

He loves riding them, talking about them and even watching videos of them on YouTube. (Yes, there exists a small group of elevator aficionados who diligently videotape seemingly mundane elevator rides as their life’s passion.) If you showed the Woozle a video of a non-descript elevator simply opening and closing at a run down Cincinnati Holiday Inn, he’d be in heaven.

DieselDucy is sort of the Stephen Spielberg of YouTube elevator videos. You can check out his astonishing 600th video here. It’s going to be a sure-fire hit in our living room.

But watching elevator videos is passive. Like any parent, I want to be involved in my son’s interests so we’ve gone “elevator riding” hundreds of times over the last few years. Whether it’s the majestic set of four glass elevators at the Embassy Suites near our house or a run down Otis with bad fluorescent lighting, it’s the Woozle’s favorite hobby. And his enthusiasm is oddly contagious. I can legitimately say I’ve learned to enjoy riding elevators, too. We even made our own elevator video that you can check out at the link below.

We went to see the Monster Truck Show where a three-ton truck jumped through a ring of fire while two motorcycles crossed through the same ring in the opposite direction. I asked Benjamin what the most exciting event was of the night and he cited the elevator ride to get to our seats. I wasn’t at all surprised.


When Benjamin was three and started writing (way ahead of schedule) he’d begin every page by neatly marking down “AZGGGENGLISHAAAAAAA.” Once that was scribbled, he could then relax and write something else. Just seeing the pattern made him feel comfortable. If he was ever in a situation where there was a lot of commotion in the room, making him feel uneasy, the Woozle would find a piece of paper, write AZGGGENGLISHAAAAAAAAAAAA and feel calmer. It centered him. Nancy and I have no idea where that pattern came from but like the elevator riding, we’ve come to appreciate what it means to him.

When I first showed him how to use a computer, he was euphoric that you could hold down a letter and it would repeat the A until you let up. That meant the AAAAAAAs at the end of AZGGGENGLISHAAAAAAAA could go on almost forever. He would hold down the AAAAAAs for what seemed like an eternity and then try and count them. It usually went into the hundreds. One time we even let him print it out.

57 pages of AAAAAAAAAs.

Today, when he plays make-believe, (that, itself, is a topic for a blog) he will sometimes refer to the “AZGGGENGLISHAAAAAAA Hotel.” And as always, the crowning jewel of the hotel is the elevator. Sometimes it’s an Otis. Other times it’s a Montgomery. Sometimes it’s hydraulic. Other times it’s traction. But it’s always the focal point.

It takes tremendous effort to keep interests from becoming obsessions. But I think having that interest, uncommon though it may be, is healthy for him. Seeing your child enjoy something and be able to share in that experience, yourself, at whatever level, is perhaps the greatest joy for any parent. We may not be shooting hoops in the backyard or playing mini golf but those other parents will never experience the thrill of elevator riding and AZGGGENGLISHAAAAAAA. Definitely their loss.


  1. With our kid (who loves cars and trains), we'd used to go on a long walk with a final treat to sit over an hour at a very busy roundabout. Every busdriver in our town knows our kid for example, and during quiet hours, they take their time to let him sit behind the steering wheel and all. But the elevator world is a new one for me. :) Thanks for taking your time to blog Rich, this made me smile.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. The pretend bus riding sounds like fun!