Dare to Dream!
I remember vividly the first day of my first Son Rise Program training. It was June, 2004, and I was missing the funeral of a dearly loved grandmother to get this training to help my son. He was six years old and severely affected with autism, despite years of floor time and biomedical intervention. Bryn Hogan, with characteristic warmth and love, asked the group of tired parents to write down the one thing that we hoped our child would achieve in his lifetime. My dream for him was to do the joyful activity I had done with my mother and grandfather so often as a child: go for a bike ride. At the time, it felt like an impossible dream. He could not pay attention for more than a fleeting moment, and preferred laying on the floor stimming away on Sesame Street figures. Going outside always triggered his mold sensitivity and numerous other allergies. Riding a bike was the last thing I thought I would ever do with him. My son is now fourteen years old. He had long ago given up on the bike, when he outgrew his bicycle with training wheels. Although he does not express this, I am certain he has an inner voice somewhere telling him "you can't do that". His horse riding instructor asked him to try riding a bike again, because the necessary skills to steer a horse are quite similar to riding a bike: looking out ahead, steering around obstacles, and generally paying attention to one's own well-being and that of others in the vicinity. We took out my husband's mountain bike. Our son refused. With some prompting, he got on and immediately scraped his legs on the pedals. Blood and tears ensued and he quit for the day. We covered the pedals with two pairs of athletic socks each, to cushion them. Gradually, he began coasting with it, as if it were a scooter. It has been two months.
Fast forward to yesterday. I glanced out the window and saw my son riding the bike, pedaling, with an enormous smile on his face! Quickly grabbing for my phone/camera, I videotaped 15 seconds of him living my dream. I shared it with my husband, who openly cried at work. Our son rode until dark, affectionately calling the bike "Old Paint", as if it were his imaginary horse. Upon waking today, he went out in his pajamas to ride again. Perhaps he thought he had dreamed the whole experience, and wanted to check to see if it was real. Yes, it is real, and he pedaled Old Paint quickly and confidently. His brother joined him with glee. I watched my two pajama-clad boys doing what typical kids do all the time, that many take for granted. If there is anything to treasure about autism, it is that I have learned to celebrate the smallest of achievements as if they were gold-medal moments. My life has been enriched from learning to love the smallest steps.
We have plans this weekend to ride as a family. It's time for mom to dream a new dream.