As Easy As…
…riding a bike.
Last week at our fortnightly OT session, there was a young girl of about 10 in the waiting room. She was tall, and beautiful with big almond-shaped eyes, and long hair that she nervously twirled with her fingers. She was also uncoordinated, and perpetually in motion. She had the hesitancy of someone speaking a foreign language, and seemed to be present, but elsewhere at the same time. Just like an older version of Pudding.
As I studied the girl, her mother watched mine. After the girls both left for their respective appointments, the mother and I began to talk. They were with the military, and had been stationed at a base in England when her daughter was the same age as mine. We chatted for a while about England, and local resources. The mother mentioned that they were there because her daughter was still unable to ride a bicycle.
Pudding got a bike for Christmas from her grandparents. She liked it immediately, but only to sit on, and put Ernie in the doll carrier. She has vehemently declined any attempts to get her to ride it. We weren’t too concerned. Both Spectrummy Daddy and I were 8 before we rode without training wheels (stabilizers). Pudding’s balance and coordination is far away from being up to riding a bike. All in good time. The lady immediately contradicted me. She had waited and waited, but the balance and coordination never came. Her daughter hadn’t cared in the early years when she was uninterested in her peers, but at around 8 she had made a couple of friends. They could ride their bikes with ease, and she was miserable at being unable to join in. She urged me to start right away.
She makes a valid point. Balance and coordination probably won’t just magically appear, but will require lots of practice and repetition. Pudding has never even rode a tricycle. My parents bought one for her when she was around Cubby’s age. She was content to ride on it as we pushed her along, but her feet just slipped off the pedals. By the time our belongings arrived back from their trip to the Panama Canal, she had comically outgrown her trike. Her grandparents bought her a bike for Christmas, but aside from ringing the bell, and putting Ernie in the carrier, she hasn’t shown any interest in it. Of course, it is winter, so we haven’t been able to get outside for a while. The ice has almost entirely melted away, it is significantly warmer now than it has been in weeks, so I resolved to give it a try. We waited until the weekend so Daddy would be around too.
It was tough. Even with training wheels, it was hard to get her to balance on the seat. Her lack of body awareness means she can’t tell if her feet are on the pedals or not. She doesn’t have the motor planning skills to propel forward, and when she turned backwards, the coaster brakes would cause her to stop abruptly, which scared her. We didn’t even get around to steering. And a helmet is a sensory nightmare too. Whoever said it was easy to ride a bike has obviously not though about all the tiny, but crucial steps that need to be mastered. They obviously have a brain that can process all these things simultaneously.
I find it incredibly hard to keep going when something is so hard for her. I’m more than tempted to scrap the idea, and revisit when she has better body-awareness and strength. But as Spectrummy Daddy wisely reminded me, we don’t give up. It might take a while. It might need to be broken into the smallest of steps. We can master our frustration and learn patience, and Pudding can learn to ride her bike, one day. The look of determination on her face is all the proof I need.