read various chapters of this autobiography by going to the Individual Stories menu to the right.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My son is the Master of the Bicycling Universe

Master of the Bicycling Universe is a little over the top, but that's how I feel about my son and bicycling today.

My son was diagnosed autistic at 2 years old. He is now 5 years old.

You can find so much on the web about challenges. I want to just put forward a story of this wonderful kid and his talent.

Within this last year he suddenly asked one day to start riding his blue bike (in photo). No training wheels, and never on it before. He said he would use it as a balance bike. I didn't provide too much coaching or insulting his intelligence, though I secretly chose city parks with no big hills so there would only be flat-ground challenges.

He rode in balance bike mode for three days. Then it happened. I saw him pedaling.

Perfectly. And by that I mean no out of control moments, and more importantly no crashes.

To this day he has never went down. 

In the last week he has had a spike in a sense of maturity. He has begun to vocalize fantasies of independence. "Daddy, I can get a yellow boat, say bye to you, and go out on the water in the boat and go fishing." "Daddy, I could ride my bike up that hill by myself. I could say 'bye daddy' to you and ride my bike up that hill and then ride back down." These ideas are kind of connected to his talking about being 10 or older. He's making plans, good plans I'm all for, by vocalizing these scenarios of saying bye to his daddy...and I love it...I give him affirmation that yes he can do that someday.

Today he wanted to ride his bike on the street. I nudged his goal away from riding totally in the street, instead riding in the parking lot of our local Fred Meyer superstore, and riding on sidewalks to a playground.

He did perfectly, stopping at street corners, riding near me, and never going too fast or away from me. People in the parking lot of the Fred Meyer came up and praised him.

I do want to mention a negative experience, but only to convey a relativistic narrative. At the push of his mom, we tried soccer. It was a little bit of a struggle the first summer. The next summer it was full on miserable, he would run from the practice after just a little time into the session. Then he ran from it right at the start of class. I asked him if he wanted to stop coming to soccer, he said "yes". I called my wife and said this is over, he hates soccer.

My story and object lesson is simple, folks. At least with my autistic kid, all I have to do is listen, respect both when he is conveying something is a misery for him, and even more importantly: provide the tools, opportunity space and sincere respectful verbal support when he voices the desire to take on a challenging new activity.

Along this long journey I expect us to drop misery inducing things like a hot potato, I don't give a ferrets rear end how normal it is for others. And we are going to look for what he fantasizes about, where his wanderlust is, what great big ideas are his ideas. With those I expect we'll just need to open the starting gate, and he'll do the hard stuff, the grand stuff.

Like he's done with biking.