That was 2 years ago. Now he rides like a pro. But- he has only been allowed to ride up and down our street- unless he was with us. He was starting to get bored with that, and I can't blame him- it's not a very long street, and he has this thing where he stops to see neighbors and may just walk into their home. That has caused a few awkward conversations and social stories explaining personal space and such.
A couple of weeks ago- I decided it was time for the boy to expand his bike riding area. We live down the street from a little park, community center and horse riding facility. We go there as a family all the time. I asked The Boy if he wanted to make his first Solo Trip there, and within 2 minutes he had his helmet on and was ready to go! Now- the first solo bike ride for any kid is nerve-racking for a parent. You give them basic traffic rules, don't talk to strangers, look at your watch, be home on time, etc. etc. With a kid on the spectrum, you give those same instructions but add things. Don't go into the dog park (which is also there), don't pet strange dogs, don't follow people around telling them about dinosaurs. Be careful around the horses. Don't go into any horse trailers. A 10 minute tutorial on reading a pocket watch and exactly what time to be home. And then he was off.
It took about 3 minutes for me to go from worry to panic. What if he swerved in the street in front of a car? What if he wiped out on the bike? What if he got bit by a dog? What if he decided to go to the water? (We live on an island and it isn't far to the water from our house) After about 10 minutes I was ready to go find him. The Mister indulged me, and said he would come with me. I had initially given him 20 minutes, but then I worried about his ability to read the watch. And I understand a child's propensity for losing track of time.
So off we went on our bikes to go find him. And we did- hanging out by the horse barns, one of his favorite things to do. He was surprised to see us and immediately asked if he was late. I told him no, we just wanted to come see him.
On the way home, dad and he went on a path through the woods behind our house- which of course I had totally forgotten about when sending him out initially- that would have alleviated a lot of my stress right there! And now that has become the routine. He hits the trail several times a week to go on his "Solo" bike ride. I also found an old iPod that has an alarm and a digital clock so he knows when it is time to come home. He hasn't been late yet! Now the whole talking to strangers thing.....
The other day he said he wanted to ride his bike to see the boats, a trip he and his dad usually take. Mind you, the boats are pretty far away, crossing a busy road and of course, on the water which is a constant fear of mine. I told him no, maybe dad would take him over the weekend. He got irritated and said he was bored just riding to Centennial Farm. Crap. It took a year for him to complain about just riding up and down the street, but only a couple of weeks to want to spread his wings even further.
I see kids on bikes his age all over The Island where we live- alone. Riding up to get candy and Slushies at the drug store. Riding to the local pool, just out riding. If only we had more bike paths- then maybe. But we don't and he's just not ready. Not yet. He is so easily distracted and has a hard time remembering bikers rules. It's going to take a lot more family bike rides and teaching to get him ready for that kind of independence.