Daily living with autism #9 – Core strength & Confidence

focused little cyclist girl riding runbike at countryside

There are moments in our lives where neither words nor videos can fully capture the joy they bring.

But still, we try. Because we don’t ever want to forget.

Like the first kiss. Or the first moment you become a parent. Or that moment your child first rides a two-wheel bike all by himself.

Which was exactly what happened with my 11-year-old seven days ago! And how it sent his parents into a state of indescribable euphoria!

Four wheels, three wheels, two wheels

toddler riding bicycle on road
Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov on Pexels.com

If you’re a parent, you would at least vaguely recall when your child first got onto a bike as a tyke. That bike likely had at least four wheels on it, maybe more!

Cos that’s how we all started when learning to ride a bike, whether we were two years old or 34 years old*.

[*I have a confession to make. Yours truly only learned to ride the bike at the ripe old age of 34! Of course that bike only had two wheels. Imagine the embarrassment of being seen riding a tricycle at that age! But that’s fodder for another day’s post]

The idea of course was to slowly move from multiple wheels to two (or one if you plan to join a circus!). Once mastered, children can then join parents for those long idyllic family bike trips around the island or cross country. Or simply take a spin around the neighborhood.

After all, biking is like one of those rites of passage, akin to swimming or driving, or tying one’s shoelaces. And which parent wouldn’t want their kid to be set for life armed with such skills right? To at least know some basic stuff everyone else seems to possess at will.

It’s just harder when you lack core strength

happy boy riding bicycle in autumn park with father
Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

But for my C, there were two major things working against him when it came to learning riding (and maybe even a third thing).

The first was his lack of core strength.

This was something we knew intuitively for several years now. We just didn’t know quite what to call it until recently when we had him assessed by, of all people, a speech and language therapist.

Now one wouldn’t typically associate such a profession with knowledge extending beyond oral speech therapy right? Yet this therapist spent an hour with C and told us point blank afterwards that what he really needed first was an occupational therapist, not her. For C needs to address his impeded motor skills and coordination more urgently. And this was because of the lack of a strong inner core.

She even “connected the dots” for us by reminding us (based on prior info we shared) that, when C had his acid re-flux episode during his infant year, that inability to hold down food and liquids well most likely had to do with weak muscle walls in his food tract. Which in turn suggests his core muscles were under-developed.

When a person lacks core strength, it has a knock-on effect on all other aspects of the muscle and strength development in the rest of his body.

It explains why C often drops even the lightest of toys or objects in his grasp. It explains why he typically slouches in a chair instead of sitting upright. And it explains why he finds it hard to climb and run, and do anything physical well.

And how those inabilities fueled the second thing that stood in his way of learning skills like biking.

It’s just harder in moments when you lack confidence

achievement confident free freedom
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

From the very start, C was always timid when it came to trying something new, especially if they were stuff involving the outdoors.

He would stand at a playground and just stare at the climbing structures or the slides and not move a muscle. We had to cajole him relentlessly to do this or try that. It was really exhausting, especially when he grew older and started making up all kinds of excuses not to get active.

We used to think he was just slow or lazy or uncooperative or a downright contrarian. And that would sometimes get our ire up! No proud parent moments there admittedly. But when you live with a boy who fights you tooth and nail daily to use his hands to tidy the room or carry stuff; or simply get outta the house for some fresh air and exercise…well you get the picture don’t you?

But looking back now, it’s clear my boy was simply “anatomically predisposed” to be timid! You would show a lack of confidence too if your body tells you that playground structure requires you to have a strong grip and firm footing but you have neither! You would lack confidence too if you have a knack for constantly dropping things without knowing why, especially when no one sets off to drop things regularly on purpose.

Intuitively C probably knew what was inhibiting him. He just lacked the words and expressions to explain to his clueless parents his apparent lack of confidence; what his body’s neurons and synapses were probably screaming to him daily.

And so a seemingly commonplace skill to acquire like riding a bike became for us and C a long-drawn affair. One peppered with many moments of anguish, exhaustion, and surrender.

This brings me to that third possible thing I alluded to earlier.

When parents don’t persevere through moments

person riding road bike on the road
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As his main caregivers, we fell short.

All the moments we could have spent daily helping him to build up his core strength and confidence were squandered, unfortunately.

Sure go ahead and let out a gasp of shock and horror. So much for the awareness and intervention to help C right? Looking over the past five years since his official diagnosis in 2017, surely we should have bent every sinew of our muscle into the task of helping C right? Surely we should have religiously worked on all the areas he needed help in right?

Clearly, the realities of life got in our way; or I should say his way!

Again no proud parenting moments there to trumpet about. Just the simple truth that we his parents failed to persevere. On most days we were just worn out from simply getting through the daily minutiae that make up those moments handling all things family, work, and life!

But thankfully, there were moments we did persevere, especially of late.

Like when we signed him up last month with the great folks at Pedal Enable to spend every Saturday morning for five weeks getting him to learn to ride the bike.

And to see him finally master it last Saturday!

Mommy hugging C while crying tears of joy (Source: Writer’s mobile 30 Jul 2022)
C in action! (Source: Writer’s mobile 30 Jul 2022)

One thought on “Daily living with autism #9 – Core strength & Confidence

Leave a Reply