Monday, June 25, 2012

A Bicycle Built For Two

We are into week #2 of the longest summer ever, and I am not sure I will be in my right mind for much longer.  Our main problem thus far has been that my oldest daughter is so busy with her summer sports, and I have to drag Katie all over for them.  Who wants to go sit in the heat outside when home has air conditioning, a pool, and a cupboard full of snacks?  We have been struggling through it, making the most out of the situation, when we ran into another problem.  My oldest daughter is so tired from all of her sports, that she doesn't want to participate in our family outings.  She wants to sleep in all day (like a typical teenager), and this has been a source of discontent in the family.  A teen being crabby and being forced to spend time with her sisters makes for a lot of "disagreements", most of which are very vocal.  Katie does not like people fighting, anyone, for any reason.  Especially not her family, and especially not when her sisters are getting in trouble.  When she senses an argument, she will start crying, and pleading for everyone to calm down, and really carry on.  And once Katie gets going with the tears, there is no stopping her.  The best idea would be for everyone to stop the argument, but it is like throwing gas on a fire.  The fight continues, Katie continues, and the day is basically ruined.

After a hurricane like that happened yesterday, Katie told me in tears that she wanted to go for a bike ride.  Now, Katie has very poor control over her big muscles.  To sum it up, she has really bad balance and coordination.  Not a great combination for bike riding, right?  So, 2 years ago, my parents bought Katie a "half-bike" that  attaches right to the back of my bike.  She actually pedals, and has handle bars, but I steer (and do most of the leg work).  She absolutely loves her bike, and we have been out quite a few times this year already, mostly just around the block.  It is a nice way for her to get some exercise, and consistent exercise at that.  She can't loose interest half way through and give up!

Once we got home from our disastrous family outing, I promised her that we would go out on our bike.  She didn't want anyone else to tag along (and thankfully no one wanted to go).  So off we went, on a much longer route this time.  From the moment we left the house, she started talking my ear off, and then she started singing!  She sang, and sang and sang the whole entire 30 minute ride.  I have to admit that she was singing the "Over hill, over dale" song from the military (that was also sung by Disney characters), and she sang the SAME song the whole time.  She was as happy as she could be, laughing and singing.  I didn't have breath to spare, but she didn't miss a note.  When we got home, she said to me, "This was the best day ever!"  Are you kidding me?  She spent roughly an hour in a fit of hysteria, only to proclaim the day fantastic because of a bike ride.  I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, however, and will just try to remember the calming effects of a bike ride next time she gets herself upset over something.

As a parent of an autistic child, this is what every day is like. Ups, downs, sideways, never standing still, never knowing what the next moment might bring, the next hour, the next second.  Never relaxing when things are going well, because you have to anticipate the next downward spiral.  Always looking for a way out of the storm, but not the easy way out.  Because the easy way out might mean that you are caving in, and you can never cave to autism.  Autism will rule you if you cave.  Always remembering what seems to help, and trying it again the next time.  Sometimes it will work again, sometimes it won't.  Sometimes there are so many factors at play that nothing will help.  Because it is not just autism I am battling.  It's autism and sibling rivalry, hunger, exhaustion, over stimulation, boredom, fear, hormones, anxiety and pain.  And so many other things, sometimes things I am not even aware of.  Things that Katie can't describe, is not even aware of herself. 

I enjoy our little bike rides.  I enjoy the one on one time that I get with Katie.  I love hearing her talk and sing.  I love her being outside in nature, exercising, being a kid.  I love that she loves her "half-bike" and I love that my parents gave it to her.  I love that people in our neighborhood see us riding around town.  Not everyone knows us, but I can only imagine what they are thinking when they see a grown kid, who is almost as tall as me, riding on a bike attached to her mother.  I hope I get the chance to talk to them someday, because I love to educate people about autism and Katie.  I love that my in-laws live only a few blocks away and we can bike over there for a visit.  I love that our Adventures in Autism sometimes lands us on a bicycle built for two. 

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