Lately, K has wanted to do a lot of things, on her own. We've been slowly crafting the pathway to independence, but she has started to charge ahead. Way ahead.
It's been a challenge, but I am forcing myself to look at K as a 9yo girl first, instead of looking at her as a kid with autism, who also happens to be a 9yo girl. Sometimes, every fiber of my being screams NO.
SHE'S NOT READY.
The biggest, scariest thing she wants to do, alone, right now, is take bike rides. This is the kid who even last year didn't want to ride without training wheels, because her anxiety about falling is so high. The only thing that got her on two wheels was the fact that her little brother rode without them, first. Once we ditched the training wheels, she would only ride when we went camping with friends, but not at home. It was a very slow process, getting her to a place of actually wanting to ride a bike, sans panic attack.
And when I say slow process, I mean two years.
But, suddenly, she is all about biking. I am sure when I was 9 I was biking around the neighborhood, no problem. Of course, I didn't have the same issues as K. Also? Helicopter parenting wasn't yet a thing.
Like, at all.
My concern about allowing K to ride alone is that something will happen (a fall, or just getting tired), that will cause an anxiety fueled meltdown.
And I won't be there.
Also, what if someone steals her?
What? It happens!
But, she was persistent. She wanted to go on a bike ride by herself. She could do it!
We thankfully live on a quiet, side street, and there is a neighborhood right around the corner with sidewalks, and very little traffic. We've taken short little walks to the "bridge" in that neighborhood, so the kids can throw rocks, and I figured if something did happen, I'd be able to hear her, anyway.
And I let her go.
And, of course, she was fine.
She was also incredibly proud. She biked back home with a giant grin on her face. One of K's biggest pet peeves is when people treat her like a "baby", and in that moment she felt just like any other 9yo. Not the different kid, for once.
Since then, she's ventured even further, to the first stop sign in that neighborhood. Maybe a half a mile or so, away, where I can't hear her if she yells. A lot further than that little bridge.
We did give her a walkie-talkie, so she could tell us when she got there, and when she was heading back. The fact that I was OK letting her go, and that she was comfortable going, is huge, though. We are both learning how to forge the path to independence, together.
I am also learning to look at all the things she can do, and push aside all the worries that come just because of her diagnosis. Yes, K is a higher functioning kid, and no, not every kid with autism can bike 1/2 mile from home. But, we can all stand to take another look at our kids, a real honest look, and think about what they can do, and what we just aren't letting them do. I'm sure each of our kids can surprise us, given the chance.