Kids on the Autism Spectrum: Bike Riding
What is a biking family to do when not all of our members are able to ride?
Milestones that are met by our children are documented and recorded—our child’s pediatrician informs us of when those milestones typically happen based on recorded data that coincides with a particular age. Baby should be rolling over at six months old, walking at around one, at three years old should be able to speak in multi-word sentences and by four years old should ride a tricycle.
Every parent has expectations of their children crossing milestones around the same age that they themselves crossed that milestone.
Grandparents are called to confirm, “Do you remember when I lost my first tooth?”
I grew up in a bicycling family; our family would go on week long bicycling trips while other families went to Disney World. As an adult I want to share my love of bicycle riding with my children. But it’s a milestone for my child, L, who is on the Autism Spectrum that doesn’t come easy.
Like other parents I tried the scooter bike when he was three years old. While the other three-year-olds scooted by, our experience resulted in meltdown after meltdown. The meltdowns by children on the Autism Spectrum are worse than a meltdown by a neurotypical child; there is a lack of communication and there is no compromising.
Needless to say, we gave up on the scooter.
At six years old, we got him a bike with training wheels. He didn’t have the core strength, like many other kids with Autism, to balance on the bike. Even with the training wheels it was difficult. Not only does he need to learn to balance but he also has to combine the foot movement while looking where he’s going. It’s a lot for him to process. And these things don’t come naturally to him. He never enjoyed the time spent on the bike and often I would find myself wondering, “Why are we doing this?”
The bike lived in the shed. Every once in a while we would drag it out to practice.
My younger neurotypical son would get on a bike and instantly know what to do, like many other children his age. It’s heart breaking to watch your older son struggle, with everything.
L is nine now and finally is at a point where is seems like we could teach him to ride. He mastered balancing on a balance beam just this past year. He can stand on one foot and hop…yes, he’s crossed milestones that children younger than him crossed years ago.
Sadly, he’s too big now for a child-sized bike with training wheels and that seems like the only sure way to teach him. He’s not big enough for an adult bike that we could put adult training wheels on in order for him to learn how to ride a bike. I’ve talked to both local bike shops and for over $500 dollars we could have a custom bike built for him, but that’s not in our budget.
As his mom, it breaks my heart to see a milestone that comes so easily for everyone else to once again be something that is so hard for L to conquer. I just wish he could catch a break. If you or someone you know that has experience teaching a child on the Autism Spectrum how to ride a bike please pass this article on to them, I'll take all the advice I can get!