When Ashlyn was well beyond the age most kids learned, I decided it was time for her to ride a bike. I was a single mom then so my brother and dad offered to help. They removed the training wheels from the bike she had barely ever used and got on either side. As they pushed her down the street she turned her head and talked, about dinner and lunch and breakfast the next day and what time we would be finished because Rachael Ray was on at 1 pm on weekdays. If they had let go of her she would have fallen over faster than you can say Food Network.
It was then that I declared us done. We were finished trying to do “normal”.
The only ones who wanted her to learn to ride a bike were myself and those people who write the books on child development that I may have burned by the candles on her second birthday cake.
Ashlyn is 18 now. Two years past the age when she “should” have received her driver’s license. Several years into questions about when we are starting driver’s training and stories from well-meaning parents about their child who didn’t feel like driving until he was 20 or their daughter who they thought would never get her license until one day (thank goodness!) she finally parallel parked.
It is a good thing I perfected the closed mouth, plastered on smile response years ago.
Ashlyn will not drive, not because she doesn’t feel like it or because the only thing holding her back is fitting our minivan between a truck and a sedan, but because she is wired differently. She could direct you to any location in our city with her eyes closed and regularly comes to the rescue of a lost substitute bus driver, but if you put her behind the wheel you better be prepared to hit the brake while she is steering or steer while she pushes her foot all the way down on the gas. Don’t worry, none of this would be dangerous because that important first step of taking the car out of park would never happen.
Not being able to drive has many implications on her future and I am okay with that, I made peace with it long ago. What I have not made peace with is others trying to wrap our autism up with a pretty bow. My normal is not their normal.
Lacking the desire to drive or putting it off for a few years is not the same as not having the developmental skills to brake and steer while looking straight ahead. I’m sure there is some special education/occupational therapist/miracle worker who could spend the next ten years helping my daughter learn to drive but frankly, we are therapy-ed out and so is she. There will be no more attempts at trying to fit her into someone else’s “normal”. Accepting her as she is is a much greater gift than a set of car keys.
She is perfectly happy with her life, just don’t tell her she missed a Food Network marathon eight years ago when her mom thought she should learn to ride a bike.
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