Monday, July 20, 2009

And we're off!!!


Back when Oliver was first diagnosed at the age of three, back when we had teams of people regularly meeting at our house to discuss what could, should, be done to help him, someone thought to ask me what I would most like to address through therapy. I remember the surprised, not-quite-understanding-if-they-heard-me-right looks on their faces when I told them that I would really, really, really like for Oliver to learn to ride a bike. Ok, ok, he had barely any language then and their tests and ratings and scores and whatever showed all kinds of deficits and here I was talking about bike riding.

But here's the thing: life as we had known it was gone. Therapists, schedules, food choices, friends, relatives, terminology, language, relationships, expectations. .... all of it. Changed. And the future? Our hopes and dreams for what our life might hold? For what Oliver's life might hold? Changed, too. Or at least under revision.

So asking the therapists to help us teach Oliver to pedal a bicycle wasn't as frivolous as it might sound. Prior to having children, Nik and I did quite a bit of cycling. Not only did we both do a lot of our commuting (I even did laundry and grocery shopping by bike) on two wheels, but we logged countless miles on the weekends exploring our county together. You could even find me on my bicycle around town in the week before I gave birth to Oliver in late August. It was natural for us to dream of the day when Oliver might join us on two wheels.

The therapists gently told me that we could work on the pedaling thing during "down time" and I got the message that they thought maybe I should re-examine my priorities. Still, every day for months we worked on helping Oliver understand how to coordinate his body with his little tryke. Eventually he got it and later balanced on two wheels easier than we expected. Our biggest hurdle was teaching him how to use the brakes. After nearly a year of trying to help him understand how he might back-pedal to slow or stop, we decided to change tactics. A few weeks ago, with a generous gift from his God parents, we bought Oliver a beautiful green and black Trek with a hand brake. He is slowly, slowly getting the hang of squeezing the brakes, with frequent reminders from us. (He still prefers to drag his feet -- we've now gone through two pairs of shoes!)

Buying Oliver a larger bike has had one unintended but wonderfully anticipated consequence: larger wheels = speed, and Nik and I, who are both -- ahem -- not as young as we used to be, can no longer keep up with him on foot. The day when we ride together as a family has finally arrived. It feels like a landmark. An accomplishment that makes my heart soar. There are no words for it.

There are some tricks to the whole thing, of course. We choose our routes and times to avoid traffic. Nik rides next to Oliver, always careful to keep him within arm's reach and to his right. The sight of them riding together makes me think that Nik would have made a good cowboy the way he corrals his spirited two-wheeled boy.

We've been on several five-milers over the past week or so and each morning when Oliver wakes up he searches for his helmet and declares: "bike ride!!" It makes me deliriously happy and reminds me again that there is simply no telling how far this boy will go.

12 comments:

  1. Oh what a beautiful sight! Shame on those therapists (and all therapists who do that!) for implying you ought to change your priorities/expectations. I think they get so caught up in the "functional" stuff that they forget recreation *is* a part of daily functioning and a way to keep families healthy. Glad you persevered and it paid off!

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  2. How wonderful! Go Oliver! I am so happy for the three of you, what a great milestone, especially since riding is so enjoyed by you all. Our family, sadly, does not ride like yours, but when Sam first took a spin (with training wheels) last week, I was over the moon. Happy riding!

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  3. WOW! That is great!! I noticed Sami was on two wheels too, you guys are ready for the road.

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  4. I am smiling almost as big as Oliver is, after reading this :-)

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  5. The bike thing was a 'thing' around here too. Skeptical glances and the 'what is she thinking?' I wrote it off ages ago.....although we did keep exchanging bikes for bigger sizes.......now they can both cycle but with similar precautions.....ain't we got long arms!
    Cheers

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  6. Brillient post! How great for all of you :)

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  7. What a wonderful accomplishment - Way to go Oliver! And way to go Mom - I find that it is hard for team members (well meaning as they are) who do not "live" with autism to remember that the kids are kids first and foremost. While all the therapy goals are important - what will go farther towards giving Oliver a sense of accomplishment, a social connection and common experience with his peers, and a taste of independence than the time honored right of passage that is learning to riding his bike. Isn't this the type of experience all the therapy is for in the first place? :0)

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  8. That is great! What an accomplishment. And as usual, I loved the pictures...what a smile on your boy's face!

    And mmm, a Trek. I did a lot of biking on my Trek back in the day, and you've got me thinking I need to get back into it.

    So happy for all of you--enjoy the biking!

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  9. i love this!!!! so exciting to see. it is such a milestone.

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  10. This is great. :)

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  11. Simply LOVE this - Its a big goal for us too

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  12. Fantastic! I've been looking into Buddy Bikes (a kind of tandem which lets the child sit in front of you). It's one of my dreams to get us all out on bikes together.

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