Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cycles and stress

One of the many things to happen in October that I haven't managed to blog about was a Bikeability course.

We had the opportunity to book our guys on a bike safety course - I guess it's a newer version of cycling proficiency - organised by a local home ed mum via our County Council.

Since L has grown out of his bike and A isn't old enough only M and J went.

The first issue was sorting out their bikes . . . the paperwork said "roadworthy bikes" were required.  Personally I had no idea what that actually meant or what condition the bikes were in, so my husband and I set about checking over the two bikes.

I have never actually owned a bike.  He hasn't had much to do with bikes since he learned to drive decades ago.  Maybe we were not the best suited to do this?  But since we'd left it to the evening before the first session, we had little choice but to give it a go.

Brakes needed to be changed, tightened, realigned.  Reflectors needed fitting, seats sorted, lots of other stuff was erm . . . well . . . fiddled with.

We managed, between us, to get things sorted.  So off we went with two boys and two bikes squeezed into the car.  The sessions began near a community centre - in the tennis courts - and then if the children were safe enough there would be three sessions "on the road".  They had morning and afternoon sessions two days running.

The plan (ha!) was that I would find a bench nearby and read / knit / keep a vague eye on what was happening.  The group was small (six children), the instructor was fully aware of M and J's issues, what could go wrong?!?

Each session was to be 2 hours, and then half an hour for lunch, and parents would be supervising their own children at lunch.

I backed off, had a wander around and discovered there were no benches within clear sight / sound of the tennis court, the grass was too wet to sit on, and it was cold. Just as I was trying to work out where to be, things began to go wrong.

M and J needed helmets tightening, and with their sensory issues they couldn't manage that themselves.  So I stepped in to give them a hand, and then to help two more kids who needed help.

Then the instructor began checking brakes - earlier one of the other Dads had spotted M's brakes needed attention as he was dropping his children off, and *very kindly* sorted out the mess that we hadn't spotted. Things became calm again, until somehow J managed to detach the entire rear brake cable.

Remember how I said I'd never had a bike?  Yeah.  So, ten minutes of looking at the other bikes, and trying to work out how on Earth it had to go back, and we were fixed :)

At which point on of the other kids managed to break the brakes on his bike . . .

I spent a while trying before figuring out I just couldn't fix it, and the poor lad was in tears.  I helped him to calm down, then we needed to negotiate some sort of bike share so he could still join in.  That shouldn't be so hard, apart from the fact that the two children his size in the group are both Autistic . . .

The instructor was focussing on the other children, on getting through the program, so somehow all the talking and fixing ended up being left to me.  I'm *really* glad I stuck around, because otherwise I think it would have been a very stressful time for the whole group.

The children managed to share their bikes well, there were a few sticky moments, but by keeping a close eye on things, and being very encouraging we made it to lunch :)

The helpful Dad came back - and thankfully was able to fix the bike.  The kids relaxed and ate.  Then off the whole group set over the road into a small housing estate.

I went to wait in the library - warmer, dryer, but still close enough if things went wrong.

When the group got back - 2 hours later - the instructor told me that J had been a bit tearful and was very tired.

We went home, warmed up , and chilled for a bit.  Then I spoke to J about what had gone wrong.  He sees his bike as an escape - a way to get out on his own and release tension.  When was on the road, the group they were practicing various turns and junctions, and J kept forgetting to look the way he was being told to.  He had to keep repeating things that the others had mastered.  He felt as though his escape route was no longer a safe thing. He felt that he was stupid compared to the other children.  His last concern was that he wouldn't pass the assessment at the end of the course.

We had a long talk about how he was learning new things, how long a day it was for him, how he was one of the youngest in the group.  I gave him the chance to drop out of the next day if he wanted to.

In the end J decided to go back - as long as his father brought him hot coffee to have with his lunch . . .

At the second days lunch break I checked all was going OK with the instructor - she said both boys were hungry half way through, but otherwise all was good.

We gave them lunch, tea and coffee, and snuck a chocolate biscuit bar into their pockets to stave off hunger in the afternoon.

When they got back from the final session, J was in tears again.  He was worn out and it showed.

Both boys passed their level two bikeability, which made J cry even more.  He had been convinced he was going to fail it. The tears were happiness, relief, and exhaustion.

M was bouncy - very tiggerish -  and the instructor told him to focus on listening rather than telling everyone else what to do. 

As we were leaving M bounded over to give his dad and J a hug - it went wrong, because M nearly pushed the other two over.  That caused M to breakdown too.

Two tired boys, lots of learning, and a pair of certificates.  A bit of a rollercoaster, lots of sitting around waiting for me, but now we can feel a bit more confident that they are safe on their bikes.

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