Martin is riding a bicycle. Though the weather has been mild, it’s still New York City winter, meaning that so far he rides only in our apartment. He zooms around the main room’s hardwood floors, daredevil skidding the curves, calling “I need help!” when he pedals himself into a jam—for example, when he manages to wedge his bicycle between the loveseat and the wine rack, a real hazard for the novice indoor cyclist.
I wanted to post about how Martin learned to ride the bicycle. But as it happens, I had no idea, because the event occurred while Adrian and I were in Israel. Martin stayed home that week with my mother (who appears frequently in this blog) and, for part of the time, with my brother Eddie, a bachelor with an endearing fondness for Martin. (You may recall me waking poor Eddie at midnight and dragging him halfway across Maine on a thermometer quest. He went willingly. Enough said.) So I asked my mother to describe Martin’s learning process. She wrote:
When I was watching Martin in December my youngest son Eddie joined us for five days. Eddie and I decided that it was time for Martin to learn the art of pedaling a tricycle, something that had eluded him up to that point. We drove to Toys “R” Us to buy one and were dismayed to find that tricycles these days all seem to be made of plastic, which was unsatisfactory. We settled instead on a small metal bicycle with training wheels and lots of eye-popping color.
Martin did not seem particularly interested in the bike, but we sat him on it for a few minutes at a time, every so often, with Eddie making Martin’s feet work the pedals (his feet kept slipping off) while I pushed and steered. On the second day Martin was able to keep his feet on the pedals long enough to propel himself two or three yards, but for some reason he would then pedal backwards, which applied the brakes. On the third day we put him on the bike and something seemed to click! Martin pedaled around the apartment effortlessly on his own! Also, to our surprise, steering did not seem to be an issue. It came naturally. Once Martin is able to ride his bike outside, I think it will be only a short time before the training wheels can come off.
I think my mother may be too optimistic—typical grandparent!—about the training wheels coming off, given Martin’s continuing issues with balance. Nevertheless, Martin has achieved something wonderful. First, pedaling a bicycle, especially in unison with steering, takes coordination, and no doubt also improves coordination over time. Second, I’m always looking for activities that build Martin’s strength, given ASD kids’ low muscle tone. It’s a double-blessing to find one that he enjoys so much.
Big thanks to my mother and Eddie for making Martin mobile on two wheels (plus two tinier wheels…).