Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Riding a Bike a Different Rite of Passage

Learning to ride a bicycle seems like a mini rite of passage for many kids.  Along with becoming more mobile, it usually leads to a greater degree of independence.  It is a rite that my six year old son has not yet taken, though certainly not for lack of trying on our part.

When Kai was a toddler, he never got enjoyment from riding a tricycle.  While other kids pedaled as fast as their little legs can go, Kai hardly moved whenever we placed him on his trike. 

When he turned four, we got him his first bicycle.  It was shiny and blue and had a Thomas the Tank Engine picture on it.  He never wanted to ride it.

When he turned five, my wife thought that a new bike would get him more excited about riding.  Perhaps he needed one that was slightly bigger, and more comfortable for his growing body. We got one that was shiny and red and did not have any silly pictures on it.  He never wanted to ride that one either.

We tried hard to get him to ride.  One time, using his love of numbers as motivation, we created a series of small flags, each with a different number on them, and lined them up on the path at a nearby park.  The idea was that I would run alongside Kai, helping him as needed while he would be pedaling hard and excited about making it to each subsequent number.  My wife would be at the finish line, waving the final flag, and yelling encouragement. 

While Kai loved the numbers, he showed no inclination to pedal on his own and I was mostly pushing him the entire way.  After several attempts, I was out of gas.

Eventually, we accepted that riding a bike was not his thing.  We came to understand that issues with his vestibular system impair his spatial orientation.  He does not know where his body is in relation to the space around him, and that, in turn, makes movement difficult for him.  He is easily scared when he does not have his feet on the ground.  For that same reason, he doesn’t like to ride on swings.

This summer, we did not get a new bike.  We haven’t created number flags.  He hasn’t been on his bike once. 

Until Monday.

His new OT has been working with him on movement.  He’s been doing better at swinging on a rope when he is with her.  She got him to promise to try to ride his bike once before his next session with her.  When he came home that day, he asked me to get his bike out.

He got on and rode around the block.  Yesterday, he wanted to ride again.  He rode a little farther. 

He still has his training wheels on his bicycle.  He rides very slowly.  I’m not sure if he will ever ride the way most kids do. 

But, that’s okay.  It’s just nice to see that he is overcoming his fears and is beginning to have better spatial awareness. 

That is what I consider a rite of passage.

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