Sunday, August 3, 2014

It's Not About Falling, It's About Getting UP!

I read an article this morning on Autism Speak's website about a local shop that had custom built a bike for a child with autism and it made me think of GP's biking journey.

When GP was a little boy and he was of "biking age" he already had a diagnosis. He was still nonverbal and had more tantrums than I would like to relive, but we bought him his first bike anyway. Not knowing that his sensory system was not only affecting his learning, but his gross motor skills as well, we went about facing this milestone without much forethought. We bought him a bike with training wheels, a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, and everything but a tushy pad to keep him injury free, and off we went to the culdesac behind our house. Turns out all the pads in the world couldn't keep him on the seat. Seemed like the seat was too hard;  he cried and wanted off... we tried a few times, and gave up. A few years later we bought him a mountain bike (with training wheels of course), and by this time he WAS verbal and he told us in no uncertain terms that he couldn't do it. The training wheels were too small, the handlers (Gino and I) too inexperienced to help him navigate the training wheeled bike with him on it, and he was having none of it. He wanted off... and he was done with it. Discouraged and thinking it was just one more thing he would never do, I was saddened but had bigger fish to fry (like multiplication, division and fractions), I was done too. 

A couple of years later I found a website for children with special needs and I found out that GP wasn't the only child with special needs who could not master the bike BUT that there was a solution... a tricycle. WooHOO! I was totally psyched. I had never even considered a tricycle. I thought they were for old people and for some reason it just never crossed my mind, duh. So I told my then-husband that I wanted to buy him a trike (not an inexpensive suggestion, mind you)
Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that a tricycle would cause so much arguing in a home. I had no idea that a riding a tricycle would  "make him (GP) look like a weirdo". I thought it was all about the kid and enabling him to do something FUN... ugh. I was so angry. I relented and kept the peace by not making my son "look like a weirdo". For years (and I do mean that literally) I thought about the trike and how much fun he might have zooming around with the wind in his hair....

A few years ago I got divorced (after eighteen years of marriage) and not having anyone to answer to, I bought GP his first tricycle. Hoping he wouldn't be self-conscious (now that he was almost a young adult), I took him to Walmart and after a short test drive in the store, I bought him a tricycle. 
It sat in the garage for a day or two but he eventually decided he'd give it a go.

*Here he's thinking about getting on.*
*Now he's struggling to get up the hill without Mom pushing him.*

It was very challenging at first, even with the large wheels and the years of working out to build his gross motor skills, but he now zooms around like Sonic the Hedgehog...
Words cannot express the joy I feel when I see him with his hair stuck to his face and his shirt drenched in sweat from peddling away. It's something I never though he would do.  I wish that I hadn't been discouraged by someone else's opinion and more importantly, that I wouldn't have given up without trying;  because that's what I did, and that's something I work really hard to forgive myself for, and probably will work at, for the rest of my life. Oh but life's lessons are usually hard and it's just one of many... 

But back to the point of the story. GP took his first real "spill" a few months ago when he discovered that his tricycle has a "speed limit". He was banged up real good with scrapes all the way up his arm, and leg. Not a pretty sight. The worst part was he said he "couldn't ride again". And I told him that he had to go riding again because, "Everybody falls down, Gene Paul. It's not about falling, it's about getting up.  When you get up, you are the winner. If you don't get up, you lose.  So get on the bike and peddle slowly if you want, but you HAVE to get back on." All bandaged up he got back on his trike the next day, and said he would only go "very slowly"... yeah, that lasted about thirty minutes. After that it was WOOHOO, all the way down the hills at the Edgewood Cemetery. 
*Flying down the hills at the Edgewood Cemetery in Nashua, NH. 
He's but a little spec in the distance*

I truly believe that riding a tricycle is a lot like living a full life. You have to work hard to learn how to stay on, then you ride along, then you think you know it all, then you fall down, and then you learn that you didn't know it all, and you learn to proceed with caution... but still have fun. I am so glad that he fell, and he got up. A painful lesson for sure, but proof positive that it's not about falling, it's about getting up. 
May you always get up, because as sure as day turns into night, we all fall...we just have to remember that to win, you must get up! =)

13 comments:

WoolenSails said...

What a wonderful post and a lot of people are riding 3 wheelers now. They also have recumbent bikes that are lower on the ground, so you can't really fall off, but those are pricey. I finally got a new one that is lower to the ground, I needed something that I could put my feet down with, I fall too, lol. So GP isn't the only one who falls off bikes, he is in good company;)

Debbie

marie said...

What a wonderful post. Trikes are getting very popular, I saw a senior today on a motorized one with his grocery's in a basket. Yes, it's all about the getting up, I'm sure I'd fall on a 2 wheel bike, not as young as I use to be.

Anna said...

Sigh...I loved reading your post...such a straight forward lesson, that takes so much courage. Thank you.

carol fun said...

Great post - I too am the mother of a young man (24) with autism/Aspergers. And I had the same argument about a trike with my husband (whom I'm now separated from). After my son and I moved to a place of our own I got him a trike and he loves it too. Since I know my son will never drive, the bike gives him a sense of freedom.

Me and My Stitches said...

Awww...what a great post! So glad that GP is loving that trike and is not afraid to get back up! What a great mom you are!

Dar said...

Love your story! I too after 40 years decided I wanted to ride again. Got a second hand bike bike rode to my friends and fell off. Good thing I have a helmet. The second time went to her house walked it down the driveway got on and fell off again. This time I'm covered in some good size bruises. Took the bike to the bike shop to get checked out and a new seat cause it couldn't be me. Lol Today I'll try again. Maybe I should consider a trike if I fall off again! I applaud you for not giving up as he might have missed something wonderful. Enjoy!

Kim Robinson said...

That is awesome! The store I work at has a young man ride his trike there each week to shop on his own. He carries his walker in the basket and asks for help when needed but most of the time he doesn't. I'm scared for him but he has never been hit!

Kris B said...

"Never give up. Never surrender." A favorite quote in our home that's from the movie Galaxy Quest...a silly and fun farce on Star Trek. GP has a great Mom. She didn't give up or surrender and now he is having his adventures. ;)

Anonymous said...

Just what I needed to be reminded of - thank you so much!

Carrie ~ Cricketwood Prims said...

Ahhhh, Thank you. I loved reading every word of your post! Its totally true! Most of us have much easier hurdles but they are our hurdles and yes we must get back on that horse and giddy-up!!! Weeeeeee!

jackiero said...

Love, love, love your sharing story! Victory, celebration, courage!

Diane E W said...

It's not a tricycle, it's a three wheeler. I can identify, my son has Down Syndrome. So much joy from the little things in life.

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