Tuesday, December 6, 2011


“Reflect upon your blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some”

― Charles Dickens

According to WebMD, the word Autism "comes from the Greek word ‘autos’ meaning ‘self.’ The term describes conditions in which a person is removed from social interaction – hence, an isolated self.”  Some of the features of Autism remind me of another word from similar derivation - Autonomous- “ also derived from the Greek word “Autos” meaning - "acting independently or having the freedom to do so.”

Our Little Man is now 6 years old, and I am continually amazed at his ability and desire to act independently.  From finding and climbing to get to our contraband (videos, cookies, et al), to working the VCRs, to video on demand, to searching Google (which he calls Goggle -- too cute).   If he wants it, he finds a way to get it.  We actually have to lock the bathroom door to stop him from going to give himself a bath without one of us on patrol.

So, here we are several months ago, getting ready to go around the block on bikes. But he doesn't want his bike with the training wheels.  No.  He wants his older brother's bike - training wheel free.  I'm game for an adventure, so I think, sure no problem, I will walk behind him holding onto the seat.  It will be a great new experience. 

It took us about 100 feet or so to catch our groove. And, catch our groove we did.  For a few seconds there, it all felt "normal" or maybe the right word is "typical."  No matter what you call it, as we went down the tree lined sidewalk, I took it all in - the light breeze, the feeling that all was right in the world, and slowly I began to drift off in dreams of more and more of these "what-ever-you-want-to-call-them" moments.  Father and son, riding a bike, playing baseball, going fishing, rowing a boat -- and yes, some day maybe even driving a car. 

Before I knew it, we were almost completely around the block.  That's when it happened.  What is he doing?  Is he taking his hand off of the handle bars!  What the....!?!?!   That's not "normal."  He slowly reached his right hand off the handle bars and began reaching back to the back of his seat.  Swatting.  It took me a moment to realize that what he was doing was not some Autism related trait.  He was trying to swat my hand off the seat.  He wanted freedom and independence.  His actions were saying "Hands off, dad, hands off, I got this..."

Maybe I was intoxicated with the dreams of more and more future freedoms, or caught in the moment, or whatever.  But, I felt it too.  "He DOES have this." And, with a gentle push to give him the right amount of speed I left go of the seat.....And there he went, with me chasing not a step behind..first five...then ten...then fifteen feet.....Until......We literally came crashing back to realty.

What happened?  What calamitous event caused me to have pick the bike up off this intriguing young man and brush the grass and dirt which cushioned his fall?  Autism happened. 

There he was going along beautifully up the sidewalk.  As he passed a car parked adjacent to the curb, he saw his reflection out of the corner of his eye.  I do not know what it is about Autism and reflections, but this man, can almost never pass his reflection, or see his shadow, without becoming preoccupied with it.  This time was no different.  As he passed the car and turned to look at his distorted reflection in the door of the car, he veered up onto a neighbor's lawn, and over onto his side.  If there was any fear of not looking where he was going, it was certainly outweighed by the pleasure he got out of watching himself riding a bike - training wheel free- in that distorted reflection.

Next summer - we try it again.  But, next time its bikes on a cloudy day -- as far away from a reflective source as we can!

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