Posted in Behavior/ ABA, Fun Side of Nick

Blog #25~ About those 25 fire alarm pulls….

Blog #25~ About those 25 fire alarm pulls……

It seemed fitting for Blog #25 that I expand on the 25 fire alarm pulls that Nick has craftily gotten a hold of since third grade.  I touched upon this a bit in Blog #10~Nano second which chronicled a week of Nick’s charades of wreaking havoc.  Most of the pulls have occurred in the school setting.  While it clearly states in his IEP to both cover and carefully monitor Nick around all fire alarms this still hasn’t stopped him. By the way, just because an alarm is covered doesn’t mean he won’t try and lift it up.  But at least the cover will buy you a few extra seconds. Most of the questions I get have been these…. Why is he so drawn to them?  How can he be so fast? And finally…How does the fire department and staff react once he pulls one?

If you have read any of my other posts it is clear that Nick likes to grab you attention by doing all kinds of things like pushing buttons, dumping out all sorts of things, burping, farting you name it he does it.  The Holy Grail is always going to be the fire alarm.  I mean think about it.  That is a big payoff.  There is a scurry of people exiting the building and the fire trucks come with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  How cool is that? 🙂

The last alarm he pulled was exactly a year ago.  Interesting how he can smell fresh blood and that is when he makes his attack.  Anyone new just starting to work with him will most likely go down.  I spoke to the new school aid that had fallen victim to #25 when I dropped Nick off at the Halloween dance last year. He was still beating himself up felt mortified…….Poor guy.

One of my friends sent this message after the Nano Second blog post #10.Having been the victim of Nick’s nanosecond skills, I can offer one morsel. He achieves his speed by help of his poker face while plotting (don’t often think of Nick’ mind racing but I believe it does) and sometimes in steps. I saw him try to 2-step me with your hat. First a small move inching the hat 2 feet closer to him on the table, with those innocent eyes.  Then he swooped in ready for the 25 footer Frisbee toss.”

He is fast!  The last time he got me was three years ago at Dominick’s.  (Just so you know he has only got me twice. Al has yet to get caught but he was almost burned by Nick in a very packed Houston-IAH Airport the day after Christmas. The alarms are painted silver, whut?  Nick grazed it but his Dad was able to swipe his hand away.)  So, back to Dominick’s…..

In my defense it wasn’t the usual one I shopped at plus I was wearing one of those bulky  therapy boots on my right foot which had suffered a plantar fasciitis tear.  Minutes before this happened Nick was carefully taking the items out of the grocery cart and placing them on the conveyer belt.  The cashier smiled and gave a compliment on what a good helper he was.  I always have Nick push the cart so he is occupied while in the store.  That’s when it happened.  Suddenly, he stopped, released his hands and made a beeline to one.  I hobbled behind him and made a last ditch leap stretching my arm like a defensive back trying to block a touchdown pass.   “Nooooo Nick!”  But it was too late.  His fingers clutched the switch just as my hand touched his wrist.  What followed were flashes of lights and an earsplitting sound that could break glass.  All of the patrons stopped and cover their ears.  I glanced over at the courtesy booth and saw the store manager throw his hands in the air and shake his head.   All I could do was shrug my shoulders and mouth one word “sorry” as I pointed down at the offender.  Nick was frozen in a trance like state; his eyes as big as saucers.  While he stood motionless; his whole body was trembling.

I knew I had to get him out of there fast as the excitement was fueling him like a crack head junkie.  The rain was falling on that cool autumn afternoon as we made our way to the car.  I got him belted in, put the grocery bags in the back and waited for the fire truck.  You see, even if it is a false alarm the firemen still have to come and investigate.  As Aurora’s finest came blazing in, I limped across the parking lot, drenched from the rain to make my apologies.  I saw two firefighters entered the store no doubt to deal with the scene.  Sheepishly I spoke to the other two who waited in the truck. I explained that Nick had Down syndrome and autism and a passion for pulling alarms. They didn’t say a whole lot but seemed to understand.

Over the years I have asked various fire fighters about someone like Nick who gets a charge out of pulling alarms.  Most of them hardly blink an eye. Last weekend while Nick was helping with a fundraiser for the Peer Buddies program a few of Aurora’s Fire Fighters stopped to give a donation.

As they put money in the tin can I commented, “Hey Nick really likes your fire truck he has been eyeing it since we got here. Oh and he really likes fire alarms too, all 25 of them that he has pulled since third grade.”  One of the guys busted out in laughter and gave Nick a high five!  A few minutes later, they drove their truck right by us with sounding the horn, sirens and lights.  Nick was in heaven! 🙂

I have to give a shout out to these guys and share a few pictures 🙂

Nick helping out with the siren testing at the Duck, NC Fire Department…….

“Wow this is awesome”

Nick collection of tee shirts…..

Thanks to my friend Veleen for sending Nick this one…..

So, here’s to the brave and kind *fire fighters! That’s what is in my noggin this week. Until next Monday why don’t you take a look around at all the alarms in the community?  I bet you’ll see how accessible they are and think….Gosh Nick could get that easily…..and smile. 


* “If Prometheus was worthy of the wrath of heaven for kindling the first fire upon earth, how ought all the gods to honor the men who make it their professional business to put it out?”   ~ John Godfrey Saxe



Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

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