I have learnt ( or more precisely been taught by Harish) that 'to believe that it is possible' is the key to achieving success in handling Autism. Learning to ride a bicycle is not an easy task for any kid, let alone someone with Autism. Harish first got his tricycle when he was, I think around 3 years. Getting him used to sit on it was the first target. It was his mom who felt we should attempt this feat. I was not sure if I had it in me to brave the world outside with his tantrums and screming. I was not yet a trained 'Autistic Parent' by then !! So the starting was executed by his mom who would pull him as he sat and enjoyed being dragged. His legs had to move in a circular fashion as the wheels rolled and that was a good exercise too. It was very hard to teach him to paddle. He would put equal pressure on both his feet and hence the cycle would never move. It needed a bid of physical work and I stepped in and focussed on Harish, the cycle and the road. It did not matter who looked and who said what. I was being trained to lead life in my terms. Harish had become a tutor in many ways.
It took lot of running along with him in a crouched position and pushing his knee down on the paddle as his left foot rose along with the paddle. One day it just happened. He got it, and I remember as he paddled endlessly at full speed as his little tricycle sped along the road. There was a big smile on the faces of the evening bystanders who otherwise watched this show of tussle between us daily with skepticism. The biggest smile however was that of Harish. Unlike all the other kids who would have run to tell their mothers and show off to their friends, here I found myself running up to tell my better half about it. After all I was his voice, and he gave a proud look as we hugged him with tears in our eyes.
He graduated to a bigger tricycle ( a bicycle with support wheels) when he was around 5. He enjoyed cycling. An adult always accompanied him and ran along side within the safe areas of the housing complex. Taking off those support wheels was the next big day. Surprisingly he was very confident and enjoyed the unhidered drive. Though, his speed increased and keeping pace with him was becoming difficult. The short height of the cycle helped him brake
with his legs and also gave him confidence.
Yesterday, he got his first big boys cycle. As we walked into shops along with Harish, the question that everyone asked was, can he cycle and most shop owners offered the tricyle as the first choice. I was wondering what was running in Harish's mind as he heard those remarks and as his proud father said .. he can cycle very well and show me the best piece you have. There was a 'branded Hero cycle' which we liked. But the final choice was of Harish's of an Atlas red and white cycle. He was eager to get on it and rode it like a Hero on an Atlas. We had brought home a ' True Hero' I thought as we all watched his joy riding the new bike.
I am writing this post for those parents who today are where we were years earlier. Believe that they can do it and they will never let you down. I have learnt it 8 years later. So dont think, just do it, for them.