Autism is a complex health condition that affects millions of children each year. Trying to provide a normal childhood experience can be challenging for some parents but with the right tips and advice, you can teach your child many new experiences while living with autism. Riding a bike is one of those normal childhood experiences that every child should learn and with the right instruction, children with autism can ride a bike as well.
With autism, a child has difficult concentrating and focusing on what a parent is telling them to do. Failing to engage in dual interaction, teaching a child with autism to ride a bike can be somewhat challenging. When attempting to teach your child the art of bike riding, you will want to involve your child in the bike riding experience right from the beginning, including the actual purchase of the bike.
When buying a bike, ask your child to tell you what colors they like as this will be important to enticing your autistic child to get on the bike and ride it. The more engaged your child can be from a sensory standpoint, the easier it will be to teach your child to ride the bike. Be sure to also include horns and bells if that is appropriate for your child’s age.
Most new bikes require some assembly or adjustment of seating to ensure the bike fits your child perfectly. For autistic children, consider allowing your child to help in the seat adjustment by showing him how to use a wrench and engage the child in touching and feeling the bike so as to become familiar with it. Lube the bike chain and show your child how to make adjustments to the bike as they need them made. The more sensory input you can give your child, the more engaged they will be become in their bike ride.
Once your child is ready to learn how to ride a bike, you will want to find an area where there are few distractions and an area where your child is familiar with the surroundings. Your home driveway is a great place to start but you may also want to consider parks or local school parking lot. The more familiar your child is with the surroundings, and the fewer the distractions, the more improved the concentration and interaction you will have with your child directly.
Riding a bike is a common childhood experience that even autistic children can enjoy. With the right preparation prior to teaching your child to ride a bike, you can support and encourage bike riding and be on your way to family bike rides in no time at all. Be sure to engage your autistic child in the bike experience right from the start – when the bike is purchased and customized to their fit and needs.
Sources: Parenting the Special Needs Child, 2006: May, 8-19.