As soon as I walked through the door last night, home from work, my son says, "Wanna go on a bike ride." It wasn't a question, it was a request. He often leaves off the "I".
"OK, we'll go for a bike ride if tonight you eat all your dinner and do your homework. First a bike ride then dinner and homework," I said. My goal was to use his cherished bike ride as a tool, a motivator. As I arranged the deal with him I used my hands to illustrate one thing then the other. It was a first this, then that sort of proposition. Braden agreed and off we went for a 5 mile ride.
Braden, who is 9 and has autism, knew what I was saying. He understood our agreement. But I wouldn't know if he was going to stick to his side of the deal when dinner time and homework came around later in the evening.
Braden's bike is a trailer cycle. It connects to my bike's seat post. Here's a 52-second YouTube video if you want to see exactly what his bike looks like. That's Braden and me in the video. It's from 2009, but we have the same bike setup today.
Anyway, the bike ride went smooth and we knew it would. Braden pedaled and had a great time, even if our hands and faces were frozen. Then we got home and the evening arrived. Bike ride done, it was time to transition into the night time routine.
I figured it was sort of a toss up as to whether or not Braden would keep his side of the bargain. Actually, I guess I would've put the odds at about 60/40 in favor of him keeping his word. And he kept his word.
Dinner time is usually a hassle. Mom generally has to reheat his food two times before he finally finishes it, and that's if he finishes it... an hour later. But last night was smooth. Braden ate all his food without incident. His thoughts were on the iPad. He let us know that he wanted to play the iPad. It was a motivator too.
After dinner came homework. He had a lot of homework last night. He had to write his full name plus 10 or so vocabulary words. He also had to read a couple books. For him, that's a lot. And it takes a long time and a lot of concentration for him to get that work done.
First was his writing. For once, he didn't dilly-dally around. He didn't constantly call us over for help when he didn't need help. He put his nose to the grind stone and did his writing. Not only that, but it was some of his best penmanship to date. He was putting in work! When I saw the writing he had completed, both me and Mom cheered like we were at the Super Bowl. Whoooooooooo Hooooooooooooo!!!!! Braden was thrilled with himself.
Two books of reading lay ahead. For him, these books would be difficult, even though each was the equivalent to a Dick & Jane book. Lots of colorful pictures and only about 8 words per page on every other page. Some pages only had a few short words. However, reading these books would be a feat for Braden.
We all sat in the living room and our son began to put out effort. He misread several simple words, but he was trying. That was the big thing - he was trying and not complaining. I'd say that he correctly got 50% of the words, and when he read a word correctly we hooted and hollered like he just scored a touchdown! He loved it! Our celebrations were motivating him and he was laughing and vibrating like crazy. But he didn't let it stop him from reading.
Braden did all his reading last night. It took a lot of energy to cheer him on, but it definitely made a difference to him that we were so involved in his homework.
I wish I could say that we're that involved in his homework every night. But the truth is that many nights we just don't have the enthusiasm to hoot and holler and clap our hands. After he was done last night my palms were red and hurt a little. It took energy for sure.
Last night Braden was happy and motivated. The bike ride got him off on the right foot, and he remembered the agreement we had made. It was easier for all of us. And since he didn't complain or use his stall tactics, it was easier to cheer him on too.
Last night was a really good night. Most nights are pretty difficult, but not this one.
Later on, after Braden was in bed, me and Anne (Mama) talked about what had happened. It brought tears to our eyes. It was one of those happy times that we, as a family dealing with autism, really cherish. It was a night to celebrate. Once again, God had given us what we needed. Amen?
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