Teaching Children With Autism a Love of Cycling

Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage for all children. The sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with that first solo ride is immeasurable, but teaching children with autism how to cycle safely can be a little bit of a challenge. Guest blogger and mum of 4 Jenny provides these tips on starting to ride a bike for parents and carers of children with autism:

Teaching Children With Autism a Love of Cycling

Safety Should Be Your Top Concern

As with any activity involving your child, safety should be your number one concern. Having the proper cycling safety equipment can help prevent injuries while your child is learning to ride a bike. Helmets are the most important, and you can also pick up knee pads and elbow pads to offer some protection. However, getting kids with sensory issues to don a helmet and safety gear can be a challenge. To make things easier, have your child get used to wearing one piece of safety gear at a time, while they are not riding. Make a game of it if that helps out your child at ease. Just be sure they are used to wearing a helmet and any other gear, before they get on a bike for the first time.

Child on bike

Simplicity Can Be Soothing for Your Child

As a parent of a child with autism, you know the importance of creating an autism-friendly environment for your kids. Whether it’s choosing a bike, a space to learn to pedal, or a path to ride down, simplicity is key to helping your child learn to enjoy riding a bike. Keeping things simple:

  • soothing colors and patterns for their bike will help them keep their focus on learning to ride
  • choose soothing colors for clothing and protective gear
  • when looking for paths to ride down, try to stick to ones that are free from a lot of noise and movement from other people.

You can try popular paths and parks during quiet hours to keep distractions and sensory experiences from being overwhelming.

Create a Calming Outdoor Space to Learn to Ride

Before you get out on any big bike path adventures, you’ll likely want to have some practise sessions, possibly in your own garden. Having some soft grass or dirt to potentially fall onto feels much better than a paved path. If you have not done so yet, there are some simple steps to creating a garden that is sensory-friendly for children on the spectrum. Of course, you will also want to make sure your garden is safe as well. Children with autism tend to wander, so secure your outdoor spaces with a fence or make sure they are supervised at all times when outside. You can also take care to remove any hazards from the practise area, especially sticks, rocks and items that could also cause injury if your child falls off of a bike onto them.

Find Simple Ways to Teach Your Child How to Pedal

Just like any other activity, you need some patience to teach your child how to ride a bike. You can start with the simple steps like fastening the helmet on and getting accustomed to moving around with all the safety gear on. Many parents find that using a scooter during this step is very helpful for children on the spectrum. Next, you can use stickers, simple taglines and other visual cues to teach your child just what to do next. Just like any child learning to ride a bicycle, you’ll want to make sure you are right beside your child as they become comfortable with all of the motions. Know that each child is different, and it may take yours some time to get a hang of balance, pedaling and all the other requirements of riding. Stay patient, stay positive and make sure everyone is having fun.

You’ve got the gear, you’ve got a plan, now get out and have some fun as a family! Find some bike paths to practice pedaling together, bike to the shops or even try taking your bikes to school in the morning. Once your child learns to ride a bike, the possibilities for exploring the world are endless.

Thanks to Jenny Wise for writing this guest article. You read more about Jenny and her family over on her blog Special Home Educator.  If you have any other advice on teaching a child with autism to ride a bike, please leave a comment below. Thanks.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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As you know, Autism is a spectrum and therefore one approach will work differently to another.

We at Charlotte’s Tandems have had many people riding our tandems and tag-alongs. They allow the rider to only have to concentrate on balance and pedalling without having to steer or brake. For some this has resulted in them riding their own bike and for others it has meant that continued use of a tandem and having lots of fun doing it.

We have lots of tandems and tag-alongs for free hire. See CharlottesTandems.co.uk

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