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Autism: Parent Victims

I know parenting an autistic child is hard – because I am that parent. I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve actually stumbled and fallen down the stairs, breaking my tailbone and causing me years of pain that took even more sleep from me. I’ve lost my kid in busy malls and churches and playgrounds because he used to wander away with innocence, chasing whatever light caught his eye. I’ve been frustrated to the point that I’ve had to deadbolt all of the exterior doors to the house so no one could escape, and go into my room and shut the door and just fall on my knees, unable to speak words, sobbing silently for God to help me get through another day. I’ve cleaned up after the daily bowel movement accident that my 8-year-old had, again, wondering if I was going to have to be doing that when he was 18.  I’ve sat through the meeting where a school administrator kicked our son out of their kindergarten program because the teacher just didn’t want him anymore. We’ve pulled our family out of a church we loved because our son couldn’t deal with the noise in the children’s church or the worship service. And, God help me, I know more about Stampy Longnose than I would ever want to know.

But, I’ve never been a victim of my son’s brain development.

I watched a video on Facebook yesterday that a friend, a fellow autism mom, tagged me on. It was a video that The Today Show shared that (last night) had about 3 million views, but this morning, already has 11 million views.

This video was about a mom with a non-verbal autistic son who’d had a meltdown at a meet this specific character event (I think it was “Meet Elmo”). So, she was sitting in her car outside of work venting about her son’s future, and how hard it is to be an autism mom, and how she used to wish he’d be a doctor or a lawyer and now she’s just wishing he’ll have happiness as an adult, etc. She admitted that she wasn’t a “religious person” but the night before she’d “actually” broken down and asked God why, but “knew it wouldn’t change anything”. At the end, the tears started to fall when she started talking about how so many work colleagues were at the event and witnessed the meltdown and how she had to go in there now and face them.

I’m convinced that if something ever happened to my husband and I needed to do something to support my family, I could make a killer living as an online private investigator. I am one of those people who just start digging when I find someone interesting. It made my daughter crazy when she was in high school, because I always knew so much about her friends, her boyfriend, her activities outside of our home life, etc.

I have thousands of friends on Facebook, and I’ll regularly just start looking through social media posts, follow links, dig through personal blogs, and just do this internal information gathering over people I don’t even really know. But, then I *do* know them (wink). It’s one of the ways I work through a temporary writer’s block – or maybe it’s just one of the ways I waste time when I’m avoiding writing. Either way.

It’s my way of “people watching” – a TOTAL favorite pastime of mine when I’m in public.

Okay, so back to this mom and her tearful morning sitting outside of work.

I started digging through her blog, and I found a letter of apology she’d written to her husband for all of the ways that being an autism mom had changed her from the young and carefree woman he’d married. It was this terrible dump of all of the resentment she harbors for having a son with autism.

We carry noise-canceling headphones when we’re going to be in a high-sensory environment

Because, that’s what it is – it’s resentment. It’s resentment that she can really see the difference in her son when he’s around her friends’ children. It’s resentment that so often her husband had to take their younger son to an event because the autistic older son couldn’t go, or she’d have to go and leave the husband, and how it caused a “division” in their family. It’s resentment that he didn’t sleep, thereby exhausting her to the point of tears. It’s resentment that he doesn’t speak and can’t communicate clearly to her or him or anyone around him. It’s resentment that there will never truly be an empty nest in their home because their son is special needs.

On an on this letter went. And for me, it totally colored this morning dump that The Today Show took to over 11 million people. And it’s terrible. It’s terrible that she took her son to an event where he would have a meltdown. And she knew he would, because the letter of apology she wrote to her husband made it clear that he breaks down when he’s in situations like that, yet the pictures flashing through the video are her and her kids smiling through event after event after event.

I’ll tell you something – as an autism mom, I just don’t go. And I don’t care. I don’t feel like our son Jeb has lost out on anything in life because we haven’t been able to go to fairs or carnivals or Meet Elmo, or Lego Palooza, or Engineering Days or whatever, in order to protect his autistic brother Scott from bright, loud, overstimulating environments. Jeb’s favorite singer, Toby Mac, came to Louisville a few months ago. Gregg and I talked it over, decided who would take Jeb and who would spend the day with Scott, because the last thing on this planet that Scott needs is to attend a Toby Mac concert.

Why continue to take him to places where he’s going to melt down? She wondered if at 18 if he would still be violently melting down while standing in line to meet Elmo. WHY, why, why, would she take him again? He has autism. Clearly, that event took him beyond his limits. What if he’d been born without legs? Would she have said, “Will he still be crawling up stairs when he’s 18?” Yes, yes he will be. So quit handing him a set of stairs and forcing him out of his wheelchair!

One of my favorite Ted Talks ever was that of a 12-year-old autistic kid who had been non-verbal for a good portion of his childhood. When he was 4, his parents noticed his fascination with glasses of water. Rather than try to conform him to their world, their world became a sea of glasses of water, filled to different levels. It fascinated him, engaged him, and soon, he was talking. They’d found a way to bridge that gap between their two worlds in a way that most parents (including me) wouldn’t have thought to do. SO insightful. SO well done.

Hearing protection while doing chores

They didn’t create a video of them crying because they had to go to work and face the people who witnessed their son’s meltdown, their son’s crawling up the stairs.

I wonder if the difference is a lack of faith in God on her part. It could be. I know something that strengthens Gregg and I as parents is our absolute trust in God, His plans, His work, and our communication with Him. It could be that we’re not trying to conform to this world (Romans 12:2), so missing out on “Meet Elmo” isn’t going to make or break us as a family. Or, separating children so one child can do something the other simply cannot do isn’t going to destroy us and require me to write a public letter of apology to my husband.

Maybe I have a maturity that comes from being an older mom that gives me more patience and more grace when it comes to who I am as a woman and who my husband is as a man, knowing that there’s nothing about me that’s the same as the “carefree young woman” he married — and if we had totally normal, neuro-typical, perfect angels of children we wouldn’t be the same now as we were then.

Maybe I know that if my son works at Subway (his dream job right now at the age of 11) until he retires, he will be happy and content and successful in our eyes, and that’s okay. That’s good. As long as he loves Jesus and works hard, that’s what matters to us.

I don’t know. But I know this: our son is incredible. He’s quirky and kind and genuine. He asks impolite questions and gets offended over smoking and cussing. He knows exactly how he wants to live his life and tolerates (barely) the things that stand between him and his happy place (in his house, headphones on, YouTube playing on the tablet in his lap, cat next to him).

And we love him and adore him and cherish him and are so thankful to be his parents, to be blessed by God Almighty who has chosen us to shepherd this miracle human being.

halleeLOGOspinefinal


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Autism and Santa

Our daughter was 9 when our son Scott was born. Around that time, she learned that all of the magical beings in her life (Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy) were not real and she was devastated. Not because these magical creatures turned out false, but because we’d told her they were real.

It gave us a serious wake-up call as parents. I think a lot of it had to do with how well she could articulate how she felt about it, and how free she felt to come to us about it.

Not too long after, through a series of events and earth-shattering kind of happenings, Gregg and I turned our entire spiritual life around. We determined that we would love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength. That took us out of a Sunday Christian with God over here on this peripheral plane and put Him right in the center of our cores. Because of that, so many things changed about the way that we eat, live life, pray, worship, spend, and definitely how we celebrate holidays.

As the boys (Scott now 11 and Jeb now 9) aged, they never had any of those magical beings in their dialogue, in their lives, in their focus. When a tooth comes out of a boy’s mouth, mom or dad hands him a dollar. Passover is celebrated as the Passover Lamb (Christ Yeshua/Jesus) was sacrificed for our sins, Good Friday is remembered and referenced back to Passover, Easter talks only of Resurrection and the fulfillment of the redemption. The Feast of Tabernacles brings us the celebration of the birth of Christ as well as God’s provision, and Christmas becomes only a time of the celebration of warm friendship and loving family and fellowship opportunities.

We host parties, decorate gingerbread houses (this year we’re doing gingerbread nativity scenes!), attend parties, exchange gifts, bake and bake and bake, and love on our family and friends. We do advent and light candles and teach about how Christ celebrated the Festival of Lights (Hanukah) and what that meant to Him.

There are no magical beings, no decorations depicting fantasy. There are gifts — but the kids each only get three, because Jesus only got three. (See what we did there, parents? HA!). And we don’t make it the most important time of the year, because to us, Christ conquering sin with His sacrifice tied into the Passover (the Last Supper) is indeed much more than the man-made holiday of Christmas.

So, we’re weird, and have been for years.

In the end, though, I think what happened in the timing of it all, in our daughter’s clear communication and our understanding of her feelings of betrayal and her emotions of anger and hurt, was that our shift away from traditional celebrations were one of the ways that God helped us protect our son Scott’s faith.

We don’t know if it’s Scott’s autism or his OCD tendencies, but he is unable to see the world with filters of gray. Everything is black and white. Santa falls into that category. Santa is a lie. Lies are bad, and are evil. Therefore, Santa is bad and evil.

He cannot shake this concept. To him, when he sees Santa, he feels anger. When he knows a child believes in Santa, he gets incredibly upset to the point of mournful tears that the parents lied to their child. He cannot separate any concept from that.

I was once in a mother’s group in a social media setting. We’d all been pregnant at the same time, due in the same month, and raised our kids online together.  One woman in this group of about 40 mothers told me a couple of years ago that if Scott felt that way, then it was because Gregg and I had taught that to him — that no child could possibly think that on their own.

Clearly, this woman (1) didn’t know me, and (2) had never had to deal with the way an autistic mind thinks. Of course we didn’t teach him that progressive line of thinking. However, we taught him that lying is bad, and that the Bible says it’s evil. And, we’ve taught him that Santa isn’t real. Everything else, he’s worked out on his own.

More to the point, though, is that we believe that our change of heart happened when he was an infant, because in the end, we know that we’ve protected his faith in God. Why?

The other day, I had a conversation with Scott and Jeb. Scott was desperately upset about his upcoming 5th grade musical “Jingle Bell Jukebox.” Apparently, “all” the songs are about Santa (the drama teacher assures me only one song mentions Santa), and he is refusing to participate (which the drama teacher and us are totally okay with.) During the conversation, Scott said that he was so sad for kids whose parents went to church and did Santa, because their lies were hurting their relationship with God. He actually went on to say, “When the kids find out that Santa isn’t real, don’t you think they’re going to think that God isn’t real, too?”

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for the conviction that had us change so many things in our lives so early in his life — so that he never has to take that black and white mind and try to rationalize us telling him that a magical creature is real, but isn’t, and a God he can’t see is real, but is. It would destroy everything about how he believes, how he trusts, and what he knows to be true. It would chip away at the foundation of everything he believes in until his faith would be left dangling on a precipice with no rescue in sight.

He’s big into pulling the mannerisms and actions/reactions of fictional characters into his dialogue — it’s one of the ways he’s able to relate emotionally with the world around him. A YouTube host he regularly watches said that when she found out Santa wasn’t real, it ruined her life.

Scott came to me and crawled into my lap (even at 11) and thanked me for not ruining his life, because he won’t have to experience the same terror as this Youtuber.

halleeLOGOspinefinal


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Monday Morning Chat – Boys Have No School Episode 1

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers. Today I’m joined by my boys and we’re answering reader questions about life and autism.

Thank you for your questions for them. They had a great time answering:

halleeLOGOspinefinal


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Autism and Navigating Social Needs and Desires

I recently took my boys to a birthday party at a friend’s house. The party theme was movie night and the kids were given shoe box size plastic containers containing a plate with pizza, a drink bottle, a plastic popcorn box, little containers of candies and crackers and such, and glow-in-the-dark necklaces. They’d originally planned to have the party outside and project a movie onto the side of the house, but rain drove everyone into a basement room that was set up with pillows and cushions and little chairs. Adult-sized chairs lined the back wall and a sheet hung on the wall to serve as the screen for the projector. It was quite well put together and very clever.

Parents got all the kids settled downstairs, and the dad started the movie. After making sure Scott and Jeb had their boxes of food and drink secure in a way that they wouldn’t spill, I went back upstairs with some of the other moms to get myself some food and a drink when, minutes later, 11-year-old Scott came stomping upstairs carrying his little plastic box.

We’d already had an issue with the pizza. The mom had checked with me beforehand about what brand of pizza to get (we go to Bible study together, so she was very careful to make sure that Scott would eat dinner that night), but they’d bought a thin crust instead of a regular crust, and he would NOT eat it (which was a bit frustrating because she’d gone to such careful lengths to make sure Scott would enjoy himself). So, we were already on the edge with his coping skills, because he was hungry and starting a spiral.

It took me several minutes to understand the gist of the problem. As the dad set up the DVD and the projector, he let the previews play on the screen. Scott saw the preview for a Disney movie he’d never seen (Ratatouille, I think) and wanted to watch that instead of Toy Story. Like I said, he was already starting to spiral, so normally he’d grudgingly accept the movie and go on with life, but not this night.

Not wanting to force an issue in a crowded room with a bunch of kids, I hugged him to give him some joint compression (because that releases dopamine and norepinephrine – which help him chill in a spiral) and talked him into making himself a big plate of veggies and ranch dip – then gave him another bag of the (never served in our house but always longed after) Doritos. Then I settled him on the couch and handed him my phone.

Something about his demeanor gave me pause, though. Despite the fact that he was about to sit back with unrestricted YouTube power, something seemed off. I said, “Are you okay with this?”

He shrugged and said, “I mean, I guess.”

Again, that didn’t feel right. So, I said, “Scott, how do you feel about being up here instead of downstairs with the other kids?”

He moved his little plastic box off his lap and set my phone down, then drew his legs up and covered his face with his hands. “I feel so left out!” he wailed.

That really made me stop.

There is an assumption that we’d incorrectly made in that even though Scott doesn’t outwardly exhibit a desire for a social presence, and even though he often removes himself to be alone, that didn’t mean that he NEVER wanted to be socially active. He just didn’t know how to make it happen at this moment because so many things (in his mind, so they’re valid points) had gone “wrong” with the evening.

So, I took him into my lap and squeezed him some more, and said, “Hey, if I go down there with you, will you sit in my lap and watch the movie with me? It’s been so long since I saw Toy Story and I’d love it if we could watch it together.”

He jumped up with much enthusiasm. “Okay!” he said, and I carried his box while we went back downstairs. Thankfully, a big chair against the back wall wasn’t occupied, so I settled into the chair and Scott climbed into my lap. A little while later, a chair next to mine was empty, and Scott, obviously resettled after so much contact with me, moved into that chair.

After the movie, we sang “Happy Birthday,” gathered cupcakes to take home, and left (we were the only non-homeschooled family there, so it was a little late for a Monday night and we left with the party still ongoing.) Scott and Jeb both proclaimed how it had been the best birthday party ever, and talked about it even the next morning.

Social situations are difficult for many autistic kids., and Scott is no exception. Other kids are loud, they understand social cues, and they don’t always want to play by Scott’s rules. So our assumption has always been that he simply did not seek it out and did not want it.

How many times have I unintentionally perpetuated a situation where he ended up feeling “so left out!”?

I worry now, a bit, that since I’ve never forced social situations beyond gentle encouragement, that I might have been keeping Scott from doing something he really wanted to do but didn’t know how to make happen.

I’ve now resolved to ask him, with clearly defined questions, how he feels about interacting or not interacting with peers.

Since isolation is so often the preference over everything else, the questions won’t be “would you rather”, because almost always, he’d “rather” be on his own with a screen. Instead, it will be, “How do you feel about —,” which will give him an opportunity to analyze and try to convey what it is that he’s feeling — either, “I don’t care” or “I feel so left out” – or anything in between.

Because now I know that I need to ask.

 

halleeLOGOspinefinal


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Parenting Autism: The Surprising Moments of Overwhelming Emotion

I’m normally a rather pragmatic person. I rarely am overcome with emotion. I handle everything in life with a stoicism that most people cannot understand. My daughter jokingly says I don’t “feel anything” — and longs for memories that don’t exist of me crying through the pinnacle moments in her life.

So, the first time I watched the first two episodes of of the show Parenthood, and watched one of the sets of parents struggle with the diagnosis of their son on the autism spectrum, the overwhelming emotion that had me sobbing into my couch pillow really surprised me.

Really surprised me.

After this wave passed, I sat there, stunned, and wondered what had just happened. As I analyzed it, I realized it was because, for the very first time in this autism journey, I found someone, albeit a fictional someone, who knew exactly what we’d been going through and how I personally felt — even if those emotions were buried deep inside a pragmatic stoic core.

I couldn’t keep watching it. I made it through the first season, but it did too much to the inside of me to keep going.

That was six years ago – right as we were beginning this autism journey and I didn’t know what our future would look like. Recently, I saw that Netflix had it in the lineup, so I rewatched the first episode.  Now, I didn’t end up sobbing into my pillow, but I definitely felt tears slide down my face as those raw feelings of fear and anger and uncertainty felt fresh and new all over again.

I know, in my pragmatic self-analyzing way, that what overwhelmed me was this idea that I’m not alone as a mother, we’re not alone as parents, and Scott isn’t alone as an autistic kid trying to work his way through this world that doesn’t operate properly on his plane of existence. Because, this isn’t an easy journey. It’s hard, and it’s unfair, and we have to work through all of these episodes in his life where he just wants to die because life here is so hard and he’s so very tired of trying to be this triangle peg fitting into a round hole.

Added to the turmoil that comes with that, one day he’s going to be a grown man and every single think we don’t do right could very possibly negatively affect that in a much, much bigger way than it would with our other children — we know this. It is part of this whole life. And we accept it and steadfastly cover him with prayer about it.

One thing that any parent of a child with medical/special needs knows is forms. Everywhere we take our child as it pertains to their diagnosis or condition, comes with a brand new set of forms that all ask the same questions over and over again. And, every time I fill them out, I find that those are the times when my emotions over being the mother of this incredible kid who suffers so much in this world hit me in extreme.

Part of my issue is because I have to fill out form after form, or squiggle pencil marks into little ovals over and over again, as if to claim, “THIS IS WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY SON!”

I don’t want to focus on all the things that are wrong, that set him apart. I want to focus on all of the things that make him remarkable and his accomplishments that supersede all expectations from before. But yet, that’s not what the forms are looking for. So, I start off angry — angry at nothing and no one in particular — just an emotional reaction to something that should be very vanilla.

I’m weird. I know.

And then I start feeling that now familiar overwhelming feeling that we’re not alone in this world. If this question exists on a standardized questionnaire, then someone else must have experienced it, too! Probably lots of someones. And suddenly, the idea that someone out there – this time NOT fictional – understands, can emphasize, could come to me one day and say, “Listen sister, don’t worry. Here’s what I know. Here’s how we rocked it. Here’s how we saw that God had our backs the whole time!”

And I start crying. Me, this stoic unfeeling person who is always taking charge in emotional situations because she’s the one who can think clearly — suddenly I’m sobbing over a stupid form that the therapist or doctor is barely going to glance at because there are enough check marks or squiggly ovals filled in that the answer is obvious.

Not because I’m angry because I have to fill it out again — but simply because it means we’re not alone. I’m not alone. Scott’s not alone.

And someone out there understands.

halleeLOGOspinefinal


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Autism, Third Wheels, and a Hammerhead Tadpole Trike

Our son, Scott, has been struggling to ride a bicycle for the last four years. Even at age eleven, he has training wheels. There’s still a wobble with training wheels and no real sense of security. If I tried walking alongside him and holding onto his bike to keep it steady, he would quickly let go of the handlebars and cling to me as if his life depended on it. With each wobble, absolute panic would generate terror that would freeze him from all movement. For four years, he was incapable of riding his bicycle.

We didn’t really know why.

Scott has a desire to be like other kids. He had a strong desire to ride a bike. His little brother has been pedaling without training wheels since about age seven. His friends in the neighborhood ride bikes all over. The best Scott could do was lie down on a skateboard and wheel himself along with his friends. Of course, this made him a bit of a third wheel.

We thought he might “grow out of it,” or that maybe just a bit more practice and exposure to the bike would lend him more confidence. For a long time, we thought it was weak muscles. If he only worked on his core, he’d have the strength to master the bicycle. Over and over again, every spring and summer, we kept trying to encourage him as he faced his fears and attempted to ride this bike.

It finally occurred to us that this was more autism related than a lack of strength or skill.

One of the senses that affects kids with autism is the vestibular sense. Our vestibular sensory system helps our bodies maintain balance and an understanding of spacial orientation in the world. Your vestibular sense keeps you upright, allows you to bounce and catch a ball, and helps you balance while you ride a two-wheel bike.

As we researched autism and all of the senses the condition affects, we discovered that to Scott — to his brain’s situational awareness in the world where all of his senses come in unfiltered and out of sync — his perception is that his life did depend on him clinging to me. Much like vertigo can attack someone with a fear of heights, as soon as those wheels wobbled even fractionally on his bike, his brain immediately told him that his life was in peril. No amount of encouragement could redirect him long enough to focus on his other senses and control the bike.

To our little third wheel, he felt like he was drowning while fleeing from a shark.

Hammerhead Shark
Hammerhead Shark

We struggled with what to do. Continue to encourage the bike? Insist that he keep trying? We found ourselves kind of on the fence about the best way to go forward. Next summer, he’ll turn 12 and will be experiencing that somewhat halcyon time between elementary school and middle school — yet he still couldn’t ride on bikes with his brother and his friends up to the local library or corner convenience store.

Recently, a friend hosted a lunch that allowed a couple of us with kids to get together and give the kids a play date while we moms enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of fellowship. This friend had an adult-sized “delta” trike – that is, with two wheels in the back. Scott got on that thing without hesitation and rode it like a pro – flying down the road as fast as he could pedal. Fearlessly. FAST and with a lot of strength. For the first time in his life, he rode.

Scott Rides a Delta Trike
Scott Rides a Delta Trike

Seeing him do this taught us that he isn’t afraid of riding – or even riding at high speeds. He isn’t weak. As soon as the large, wide, stable wheels of the trike supported him, he was completely fine.

Our third wheel son needed a three wheeled conveyance.

Gregg started researching trikes and autism and specifically the vestibular sense. He learned that the trikes with the wheels in the back, the delta trikes, while generally very stable riding in a straight line, can very easily tip over if the rider brakes and turns at the same time. The problem is that the front wheel is at an angle to the direction of travel and when the rider brakes, all of the body weight and centripetal force and kinetic energy of the rest of the entire trike transfers onto that lone front wheel which is already experiencing angular momentum. Flip!

In his research, Gregg found and purchased a set of plans from Atomic Zombie for a “Hammerhead Tadpole Trike”. A tadpole trike has two wheels in the front and the rear wheel is the braking wheel. This puts two wheels at a proper configuration to the circumference of the turn while the braking drag is all in the rear most part of the trike. This is called a “hammerhead” tadpole because the configuration of the steering linkage and the front wheel braces resembles a hammerhead.

hammerhead design
hammerhead design

The design has a complex Ackerman steering system that involves a principle which allows the innermost wheel to turn more sharply than the outermost wheel in a turn. That helps the trike remain upright and stable during a turn, even a fast braking turn. It is designed to accommodate riding through snow and ice, so Gregg knew that a similar design would work for Scott on grass, gravel, sand, or roads and sidewalks.

We just needed a couple of “donor” bikes and a good bike frame to build it. We live on Fort Knox, Kentucky, so he took the plans he’d bought to our neighboring town of Radcliff to Outdoor Ventures, a bike shop just a few miles up the road from us. They were very interested in the project and wanted to do what they could to help us get our young son onto his own trike. After talking with Gregg and meeting with Scott, the owner basically donated some bikes and bike parts to the project.

A coworker who Gregg has known since Afghanistan connected him with a friend, Al, who had the welding tools and skill needed to weld all the elements of the trike frame together. He obtained some steel and riding lawnmower steering bearings from the local Rural King and ordered a few spherical bearings just in case. After ordering various pieces and parts, collecting different bikes and bike parts, Gregg prepped what pieces needed to be cut or ground down and sanded, inventoried all of the pieces and parts, and delivered them to the welder, Al.

Gregg cuts apart some donor bikes
Gregg cuts apart some donor bikes
Donor bikes and bike parts
Donor bikes and bike parts

Donating all of his time and talents, Al welded the parts Gregg brought him and built the frame of the bike.

The "hammerhead" frame mocked up with tack welds and clamps prior to final welding
The “hammerhead” frame mocked up with tack welds and clamps prior to final welding

Being a true pro, Al gave the hammerhead an even wider stance for greater stability and strength.

the complex steering

Gregg purchased racing forks and mag-wheels from Outdoor Ventures, put a comfortable wide seat on it, tightened the brakes to hair-trigger responsiveness, and let Scott give it a go.

Scott loved it so much that he insisted he didn’t even need it painted. Despite that, Gregg took it all apart again, sanded down and smoothed out the areas where it was welded, teflon taped all the threads, and puttied all the spaces with JB Weld. Then he primed it and gave it a bright neon green top coat — Scott’s favorite color.

This past Sunday, our family rode our bikes/trikes to church together for the very first time.

We’re having to battle the words that other children say when they see the hammerhead for the first time. “That looks weird!” “What is that?” At first, these comments made Scott come home and not want to ride again. He thought the kids were mocking him, but we also heard them say, “I want a 3-wheeled bike, too!” “Can I ride it?”

Despite that, when he gets on the seat and starts pedaling and re-introduces himself to the freedom of wheels and the feel of the wind against his face, he realizes it’s okay if kids stare and ask him questions about it. Because he’s free. He’s having a real adventure, and little boys need adventure so they can grow into confident men. And he is able to join his brother and his friends as they storm the neighborhood on their bikes.

Gregg took them out in the neighborhood every night this week, chasing the sun, and watching him bike up hills, across grassy fields, and down the road without even slowing down, never afraid, ready to keep going forward. Last night, as they were putting the bikes away, Scott said, “Thanks for building this for me, dad. I love it.”

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