What may surprise you (it certainly surprised Jim and me) was that, prior to the bike ride and after an early morning bagel run, Charlie got out of the car for a walk. After about 10 minutes, instead of veering towards the left to go home, he kept going down the street and right past the front lawn of the house where resides Nemesis Dog. The dog wasn't to be seen, but Charlie, whether on bike or afoot, hasn't gotten near that house and lawn since last summer.
On our walks, Charlie also hasn't been running in the opposite direction on seeing a dog. He stays to one side of the sidewalk but I haven't been feeling the fear radiating off of him. He just keeps moving.
Charlie and Jim went, per Charlie's lead, past the dog's house on their bike ride. The dog was still not in evidence so it remains to be seen if Charlie is ok going by the house when he or she reappears.
And then they walked. And walked and walked and sometimes jogged-ran, the total length (4 miles) of one of their habitual bike routes. It was as if Charlie, feeling the warmer weather and hearing us talking about bike rides, wanted to refamiliarize himself with his old route.
Charlie definitely needs to be in the great outdoors—-something that, I am quite honored to say, Dr. Patricia Wright on the Easter Seals autism blog wrote about in a lovely post entitled The great outdoors—inspired by Charlie. Dr. Wright wrote:
Outdoor activities can include kayaking, bike riding and the beach, to mention just a few. From my days as a classroom teacher, I remember well many students who really appreciated their time outside of the classroom. Kristina Chew’s posts about Charlie’s love of nature have inspired me to do some research on organizations who have gone out of their way to meet the unique needs of individuals with autism — even in the great outdoors.
Thanks so much to Easter Seals and Dr. Wright (and to Beth Finke, who wrote to me about the post) for noting Charlie's love of the great outdoors! I guess he's not (and Jim and I are certainly not) suffering from "nature-deficit disorder"; as previously noted, we don't have a TV set and Charlie rarely watched anything when we did have one (so you can imagine how much we were rolling our eyes around here about this theory of autism causation).
Jim spent a good part of his 1960s suburban childhood running and biking and playing ball outside. I was more of the indoors type and spent most of my time inside reading and practicing the piano and that kind of thing (Jim read plenty too). Prior to life with Charlie, venturing into the great outdoors was something I did in a selective and occasional sort of way—it's now rather becoming a way of life.
Even after the walk and the bike ride, Charlie was still game to go on an evening walk. Before Jim knew it, they were again doing the 4-miler with, as Jim called to tell me, Charlie stopping at every single spot that he does when they're on the bike ride, as if that's part of how he finds his way on the route. Jim also noted that Charlie was proceeding on the walk as if he were on the bike to the extent that he told Jim "no no no" when urged to walk on the sidewalk at some trickier intersections.
Given that Charlie's visual memory of the route seems exactingly (in a Stephen Wiltshire kind of way) dependent on seeing the road from a certain sort of perspective, it's not going to be automatic or easy to get him to change his way of doing the bike route when afoot. Clearly this is something we'll need to start addressing immediately. It's one reason why adventures in the great outdoors with Charlie tend to be a little extra nerve-wracking.
But always, let me tell you, more than worth it.