People often ask me how I find "things". How do I learn it? How do I find a program? The answer is quite simple . . . it's hard work! Research, research, research. Not ALL of my time on the internet is useless, although some of it is! Frankly, before the internet, I don't know what people did. I am a researcher. I like to go into everything with, not only a plan, but a plan a, b and probably c. Part of that is from living with Daniel. You simply must have an alternative. And if you don't, you had better be able to think quick on your feet. When it comes to the bike riding, I started looking on line and asking people. Networking still is a great way to find information. Although on this topic I didn't get very far. Even Daniel's Adaptive PE instructor didn't have much info to offer. I always felt that training wheels were not the way to go. I don't know why? But I did. I get gut feelings about things and, unlike most people, I tend to follow it. I follow it because in my 41 years, I've learned my gut is almost always right. I truly believe we all have an intuition built into our bodies. Most people just don't listen. I do. I was told by many people we had to do training wheels first. I thought this was wrong because a). I knew Daniel wouldn't like the unsteady feeling of training wheels, the wobbling back and forth and b). when you take them off you would be starting over again. This seemed like a waste of time to me. My father in law, found a bike on line that he got large training wheels for. It was incredibly thoughtful. We are very lucky to have such a supportive family. Daniel loved the idea of the bike. Posed on it. Took pictures. He even tried to ride it, once. Maybe twice. He didn't like it, to say the least. He didn't like the unstable training wheels. Back to the drawing board!
I'm slightly digressing, so I'll go back. My wonderful neighbor Diane is a bike enthusiast. She offered to let us use her tandem bike. This is no run of the mill tandem. It was a very good bike and the fact that she wanted to lend it to us, was not only really appreciated, it made me a bit nervous something would happen to it! We accepted gratefully and took a spin around the 'hood. Here is a picture of Todd and Daniel on the tandem!
Now when I was riding with Daniel I was in front with Daniel on back. Obviously so I could steer. Initially, he whipped his body around so much I thought he would take me down!! It was a bit scary I must say! He was probably only 25 pounds less than me and possibly stronger. Over time, the whipping from side to side lessened (partially because I'd always be yelling, HOLD STILL!!!!) And, as we expected, Daniel LOVED the feeling of riding a bike. It is freedom and can be a thrilling thing. So he wanted to ride the tandem, a lot. Not that there is really anything wrong with this. The tandem did help us in a few areas. First, it helped him realize he couldn't throw himself around like a maniac. Next we could constantly yell back the rules. For instance. Stopping at a stop sign. Daniel yells, "Why are you stopping???!!!" I say, "Because, look we are at a red stop sign. We have to stop and look both ways". Etc etc. This sounds simple. Ahhhh but it isn't. It is constant! He doesn't generalize very well at first, so it would be at EVERY stop sign at every corner. Or red light, or person in front of you and you have to slow down. Over and over. It's exhausting. But it's the only way. Repetition. I have been told by well meaning people, "but you have to do this with all kids." All I have to say to that is HA! you have never obviously tried to teach a kid with autism anything! I have one with and one without and I can tell you that not only is it not the same thing, it isn't even in the same ballpark, same city, state or country!!!!! It's mentally and physically exhausting and tedious. Next, the kid was basically getting a free ride! He would pedal, but he wouldn't put much effort into it. When I was riding with him and God forbid we come to a small hill (luckily EL is blessed with flat streets!) I would be pedaling for my life to try to drag us both up it! I'd be yelling "PEDAL, PEDAL!" We were quite a site!!! Todd, of course, had it much easier. He is stronger and heavier giving him a clear advantage.
This tandem was our first taste of a family bike riding. Zachary could ride his bike, Todd could ride the tandem with Daniel and I could ride another. You would have thought Zachary had died and gone to heaven! I hadn't realized how much NOT doing those things was affecting him. He was so thankful for us going out and doing something like that as a family. We went on one of our bike trails one night and I really remember it well. It was an awesome experience. Everyone was happy, we were exercising together, enjoying beautiful East Lansing and just being together. Now I knew I had to figure out how to make this happen. I knew that this could open up the door to so many more possibilities. There was talk of riding to the library together, of riding to our favorite summer spot, the aquatics center. So many possibilities!! We were trying to give Daniel a purpose. A reason to put the work into doing this on his own. With the tandem he got a taste for it. We all did. Time to get researching!!!