Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bike Camp VII

Writing these entries about Daniel's bike camp achievements has me basking in the glow of our accomplishments yet again. Sometimes I look at him with such amazement. My heart swells with pride and love. But sometimes it's so much work. Maybe this just goes along with the saying, (I never remember things like this so I'll butcher it) the harder the work the sweeter the reward? Whatever. It makes getting there even more triumphant. I will say I was warned about what would come after camp. But I tucked it away to the corners of my mind, until camp was finished. I need to do this with Daniel, because otherwise it is just too much information to handle at once. I sort of have to do something, check it off my mental list, then find the next thing in line. I know it's there but I compartmentalize it and pull it out when I need it. So the after was here.

The after is practice. He could ride on two wheels, but was wobbly. At camp we had the giant handle to grab if he started going down. At home we won't. At camp there were college age kids chasing him. At home we have 40+ year olds' who prefer a glass of wine to running in 5k's. So my summer of chasing Daniel up and down the street had begun. We added "ride bike". To his job chart. The job chart was started by a speech therapist we do groups with on Monday nights. She's awesome. I'll write on that later. But she started a job chart. It was hard to get started, as things usually are. It's the transition. But now. If you put something on that job chart, it WILL happen. Just try to stop it! So we added ride bike. Usually I'll put things like this down as 3 times a week or 2 times a week. Then if we are out of town or something we don't have to bring the bike or whatever with us. Because like I said, we'd be doing it. So we started, riding up and down the street with me chasing him. Within a few passes I was gasping for air and coughing and looking downright pathetic. He'd get mad at me because I wasn't keeping up. After a week or so, I mostly had to get him started. He had not mastered starting on his own at camp. They would like this to happen, but he didn't quite get there. So I would tell him which house to stop at, get him going and jog at my own pace to where he was. He would have been stopped and WAITING for me. Waiting is a four letter word for Daniel. Not ever something that makes him happy, but he had too. Mom's just too out of shape kid. So he'd turn around and we'd do it again. Up and down up and down. Of course during this time we were having some of the hottest Michigan weather known to man. It can get humid here, and it was. There is no point to this information except that I'm whining and hoping people feel a bit sorry for me. I know I probably just sound pathetic, so I'll move on.

As he got more steady, we moved on to starting. This was and is always a tricky part of bike riding. But he did pretty well. You just have to STICK TO IT. I'll admit having that job chart probably helped me too, because it kept ME on task. I can see why people bail on this. This probably took about a month to get to this point. We decided to go around the block. It's a pretty good sized block. I was still on foot. So off he went. But I was still jogging and really, my stamina did not seem to be improving. I sort of had high hopes that it may, but I didn't seem to be progressing as much as Daniel. He would get so far ahead of me going around the block, since he was ON A BIKE and I was running and gasping. So I would eventually have to yell for him to STOP! This did not go over well either. He doesn't like to be interrupted. I would just apologize and ask for a minute to catch my breath. It doesn't go without saying that neighbors would usually be smiling and waving at me and, I'm sure, laughing hysterically when they'd go inside! I don't care, we were making progress!

We were going "up north" as us Michiganders say. I wish I knew how that started, but pretty much where ever you live at some point you go "up north". It widely covers almost any destination in Michigan. So in our up north preparations, we decided we had better bring the bikes to keep up the practice. The kids and I were planning on being gone for 2 weeks, so that would be a huge interruption. We brought the bikes. But when we got "up north" I told him, I wasn't running anymore, I was riding my own bike. If he needed a push I could start him and then jump on mine. This was not happy news because apparently I had set the pattern of running. But mama was done running and needed to get her butt on a bike to keep up. If you have a child on the spectrum, to me, this kind of change is easier to do in a different setting. We were in a different city, so that made the change more acceptable to him. Had it been on our block, I think I would have heard a lot more complaining. It is best to be firm and not show any chance of cracking. If he wants to ride, these are the new rules. He accepted and off we went. Riding "up north".

Our bike riding then expanded again. During the 2 weeks up north, we expanded to places. The beach, the skate park, downtown or the library. This is what we'd been working for. I would ride behind Daniel so I could keep my eyes on him and shout out instructions like "slow down", "don't hit the people", or more specifically "yell to the people excuse me and go around them". Things like that. There are literally thousands of scenarios that can come up when you are riding. Daniel is autistic and he does not generalize very well. So pretty much you have to do every situation over and over and over and it doesn't generalize to another situation. It is exhausting. Sometimes when we'd get home I'd have to escape to a quiet room to pull myself together. It was really mentally exhausting.

I discovered there are lots of terms he didn't really understand. One of which is crosswalk. By the way there are, visually, tons of different crosswalks. (I'm married to a civil engineer and complained about this, but apparently he does not have the authority to change crosswalks all over the USA. Huh.) They don't ever look exactly the same. Some have stripes in them, sometimes it's just parallel lines, sometimes the pavement is raised. No two look alike, therefore at each one he doesn't seem to know what to do. This became very frustrating for me. I found a cartoon online that completely made me laugh. I have showed it to people who do not have kids on the spectrum and they didn't really get why I thought it was so funny. Or they told me what they thought and it was way off. So maybe this is just for my own amusement.

I realize explaining this will probably take away the humor, but as my husband tells me with some frequency, I suck at telling jokes, so why stop now? Ya see, my vision of this is Daniel is the person on the sidewalk. The sign says WALK. So he would just WALK. That's what the sign says. So if someone is turning their car in front of you, even though they shouldn't with pedestrians present, he'd just WALK. If there were crocodiles in the road, dog gone it, he'd go. The sign says to after all. It makes it very difficult to teach a rule then explain the millions of scenarios that break the rule. I would constantly tell him to cross within a cross walk and he'd go off in the other direction, the wrong way, and therefore INTO traffic. I swear I lost 10 years of my life in these exchanges. But, it all has to be learned. I was surprised that he didn't understand some of these things already. But apparently, he didn't! Who knew? And if there is any chance of him driving and owning that "little yellow car" he so wants to own some day, better to start learning these things now, before he is behind the wheel of a deadly car.

In the mean time, the bikes are hung up on the roof of the garage. The snow is flying, way too much for November, and we are taking it easy until spring time. We did get to take those family rides to the library, to his old elementary school (2 miles away!) and to his current school. We never did make it to the Aquatics center. But that's OK, we have lots and lots of bike rides in our future.

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