If you don’t have a child that is, at the very least, developmentally delayed in some way, or if you aren’t familiar with me and my family, my making a big fuss out of this probably won’t make much sense.
This morning as Boy was getting ready for school, he was putting on his bicycle helmet. I stopped him.
“[Boy], you can’t wear that unless you’re in the wagon or riding your bike,” I told him.
“Oh!” he replied in astonishment. “My bike!” With that, he opened the sliding glass door and dashed out into the back yard to get the blue bike with the training wheels on it that’s been sitting back there for over a year gather dust and neglect and began trundling it into the house.
When he had it in the house, he put on his helmet and I helped him fasten the chin strap. Then, he got on the bike and foot pushed it out the door.
“Would you like some help?” I asked him when we had made it all the way across the street and he was still foot pushing. “You can pedal this bike. It’s just like riding a tricycle, only you backpedal if you want to stop. Come on! I’ll help you.”
Nodding, Boy put his feet on the pedals and slowly began to push them. I encouraged him the entire way, all the while standing to his left and holding his seat and one of the handlebars. After a while, his face broke into a grin.
“I’m doing it!” he crowed delightedly, “I’m really high up and I’m not scared! I’m. Not. SCARED! I’M NOT SCARED!” With that, he began singing a song he’d heard while watching Clifford’s Really Big Movie. “I’m not scared, anymore!” I knew he was quoting a line from a movie (It’s a common trait in children with Autism, called “Echolalia”), but I still couldn’t help but feel proud of him for overcoming his fear.
When we got to the bus stop, I helped him park his bike, promising him to bring it back with me when I came to pick him up. Later, as promised, I brought the bike back to the bus stop with me and waited for his bus to arrive. When it did, as before, he climbed on and pedaled all the way back home, with me calling out to him constantly to pedal in a circle and pedal faster. He would occasionally stop and I’d ask him if he wanted to get off.
“No,” he would reply, “Keep going.”
So, we continued to pedal until we got to the top of the driveway, where he helped me put away the bike and hung his helmet on one of the handlebars.
“Good bye, bike,” he said to it, pretending to cry. “Good bye, helmet.”
“No!” I told him, “You’re going to be happy to see your bike again. You can say, ‘Good bye, bike and helmet! See you soon!’”
Delighted, he repeated this and went into the house to hang up his jacket and backpack.
I suspect that, from this point, that bike may come to be an important part of his morning routine. To think, when we first got it and I put on the training wheels, I couldn’t have convinced him to ride it if his life depended on it. I call that an accomplishment. Wouldn’t you?