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  1. #1
    Senior Member eric von zipper's Avatar
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    Teaching an Autistic kid to ride a bike

    The autistic kid that lives next door to me ask if I would teach to ride his new bike. I said yes. He's 12 or 13. I don't and haven't spent time with a lot of kids and I have never tried to teach one to ride. This may sound silly, but I'm a little freaked out about it. Any advice?
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    Patience is at the top of the list. Have a carefully thought out method that contains easy, step-by-step routines that can be repeated until perfect before moving on to the next step or level. Do not underestimate the importance of breaking down the skills into these little segments.

    Removing the pedals and lowering the seat do his feet are flat on the ground is a start. Get him to walk the bike along first while sitting astride the seat. Then get him coasting down a slight incline, still with the pedals off and the seat low. Only until he can coast for a reasonable distance (and make the sure the incline is gentle and preferrably on grass) without substantial wobbling or putting his feet on the ground, that you get to put on the pedals and raise the seat. Get him into the habit of moving the pedal he intends to push down on when starting in the up position (11 o'clock left, 1 o'clock right). Don't try to steady him at any time. Again, grass is a good location should he fall. Ensure in all this that he looks to where he wants to go, not down at the front wheel. And make sure the bike fits him reasonably well.

    Keep the sessions short -- 30 minutes at a time. He might be enthusiastic, but probably will tire quickly, and the teaching process becomesimpeded. There are some other things to will determine his balance suitability. PM me if you want more information.

    You might be surprised as how well he does -- autistic kids, I understand, have a real talent for (a) photographic memories and (b) undertaking complex, dextrous tasks such as playing music that are utterlly astounding.

    There is no greater satisfaction that teaching someone how to ride a bike. I've done it, I suppose, with about 30 adults.

  3. #3
    Mooninite shakeNbake's Avatar
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    I agree with Rowan, and I would stress the repetition part.

  4. #4
    Senior Member eric von zipper's Avatar
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    Thanks a ton, Rowan. That's what I need to know and hear/read.
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  6. #6
    timbentdude
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    Rowan gave some sound advice. My son is Autistic and 10 yrs old and we have been at it for years. One thing that has been a stumbling block is the concept of balance, its been hard to teach him how to keep the bike upright and use body english. Autistic children have sensory issues and balance is not easy to teach.

    Taking the pedals off that Rowan suggested will be my next attempt and sounds like a great idea. One thing that has helped us is a pedal trailer so we can ride together. With him being 12 you should have great success I think with my son he will grow into it as he matures. I have great fun with him and we ride all the time. We keep working on it with no timeline if learns next year or in ten years, all I know is one of these days I'll be sucking his wheel.

    Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by timbentdude
    Rowan gave some sound advice. My son is Autistic and 10 yrs old and we have been at it for years. One thing that has been a stumbling block is the concept of balance, its been hard to teach him how to keep the bike upright and use body english. Autistic children have sensory issues and balance is not easy to teach.

    Taking the pedals off that Rowan suggested will be my next attempt and sounds like a great idea. One thing that has helped us is a pedal trailer so we can ride together. With him being 12 you should have great success I think with my son he will grow into it as he matures. I have great fun with him and we ride all the time. We keep working on it with no timeline if learns next year or in ten years, all I know is one of these days I'll be sucking his wheel.

    Tim
    My advice (as how i was taught) is get the kid on the bike with feet on pedals push him along from behind go faster & faster then let go of bike , if he falls make him get right back on it (as inmy case i refused & cousin gave me a hard swift whack to the head with the palm of his hand,so i had no choice) & before you know it the kid will be pedalling away.much faster learning curve than training wheels
    or trying to manipulatise him with words or other cohersions. Simple & effective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skeeter
    My advice (as how i was taught) is get the kid on the bike with feet on pedals push him along from behind go faster & faster then let go of bike , if he falls make him get right back on it (as inmy case i refused & cousin gave me a hard swift whack to the head with the palm of his hand,so i had no choice) & before you know it the kid will be pedalling away.much faster learning curve than training wheels
    or trying to manipulatise him with words or other cohersions. Simple & effective.
    I probably wouldn't be quite so blunt or violent, but I can relate to this. I had what might be termed an intellectually impaired person enrol for a learn-to-ride course. He was bulky -- probably 250lbs. I used my ladyback tandem to put beginners on the back to give them a good idea of the sensation of riding. This guy, apart from being big, was relatively unco-cordinated for riding. I went 2km and had a huge workout just trying to keep the tandem upright. I was covered in sweat when we returned.

    Anyway, he persisted, and I persisted through the exercises and his innumerable questions and observations. He got to coasting downhill OK. And he almost had the pedalling going once or twice. Then he interrupted me yet again while I was working with another student, and I sort of snapped (I've used R in place of his name): "Get on the bike, remember what I said, and pedal down that hill, R!!!!!" I told him in a rather loud, exasperated voice. And he did! He was right after that, and I passed him on his bike a few times at various locations in the months afterwards. He wasn't autistic because his motor functions basically were fine, but his intellectual impairment presented its challenges.

    eric, as to the balance exercises: Use some masking tape to put down a line about 5 metres long on a floor or a concrete path. Get the boy to walk along it as though it was a tightrope. As with most people I do this with (as in all students), he will look down and teeter-totter a lot and use his outstretched arms for balance. Then get him to look up at a fixed point on a wall, or a tree or something straight ahead, and walk along the line using his peripheral vision and with his arms by his sides. Usually the teeter-tottering is reduced dramatically. Try to instill in him that this is what you want him to do on the bike when he starts to coast -- to look up and at where he wants to go. You might well have to stand ahead of him and talk to him to keep his attention on this.

    The other method for determining balance is to have him stand with his legs crossed and to cross his arms over his chest. Then close his eyes for 30 seconds. This helps determine his ability to balance in the first instance, and his motor-co-ordination skills to recover the slight imbalances. If he topple rather rapidly, you may have some significant balance issues to overcome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by timbentdude
    I have great fun with him and we ride all the time. We keep working on it with no timeline if learns next year or in ten years, all I know is one of these days I'll be sucking his wheel.
    Oddly, I have yet to hear a parent of an autistic child who doesn't have fun with their kid. Maybe it's the satisfaction of overcoming the challenges of raising him/her that provides the source for this outlook. Anyway, I truly hope that your son does get to fully enjoy the pleasures of cycling. Plus, cycling is the one mode that provides a degree of transport equity -- often, authorities will prevent those perceived as intellectually impaired from obtaining a driver's licence, and cycling opens up the doors of freedom for employment and entertainment that they otherwise would not have.

  10. #10
    timbentdude
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    Anyway, I truly hope that your son does get to fully enjoy the pleasures of cycling.
    Thanks Rowan he really loves to ride no matter what his skill level. You talked earlier about special talents Autistic children have, reading is his, he is a reading machine he always has a book in his hand. A very important life skill that will make his adulthood much easier.

    Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    He was bulky -- probably 250lbs. I used my ladyback tandem to put beginners on the back to give them a good idea of the sensation of riding. This guy, apart from being big, was relatively unco-cordinated for riding. I went 2km and had a huge workout just trying to keep the tandem upright. I was covered in sweat when we returned.
    I would gather that would make quite an efficient improvement tool doing that on a regular basis especially ascending hills, much more so than a hydration pack filled with rocks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skeeter
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    I would gather that would make quite an efficient improvement tool doing that on a regular basis especially ascending hills, much more so than a hydration pack filled with rocks.
    Yeppo... except for the incessant questions from behind with an expectation of an immediate answer while I am trying to swallow enough air to stay alive!!! As you can gather, I couldn't feel much assistance through the pedals...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    Yeppo... except for the incessant questions from behind with an expectation of an immediate answer while I am trying to swallow enough air to stay alive!!! As you can gather, I couldn't feel much assistance through the pedals...
    once he gets the hang of riding you can become the stoker & return the favor

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    Awesome
    There are no pacts between lions and men

  15. #15
    Senior Member eric von zipper's Avatar
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    Welp, we were going to have our first go at it this past Sunday. Didn't happen. He decided that he didn't want to try then. Maybe the upcoming weekend...

    Thanks again for the tips. And I'll update his progress as it happens.
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    Just curious, can autistic kids really communicate like that? I thought an autistic would not be able to ask you. Is the kid diagnosed as a 'high functioning autistic'.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member eric von zipper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    Just curious, can autistic kids really communicate like that? I thought an autistic would not be able to ask you. Is the kid diagnosed as a 'high functioning autistic'.
    I was told by another neighbor that he is autistic. I'm not sure if he is 'high functioning.' So, I assume that he has some sort of autism. He does communicate and I know there is something going on with him just from him living next door, but I know nothing about the subject. I'll feel a little silly if I find out it's something different after posting this.
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  18. #18
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    We have an autistic lad in our town that rides a bike. He does have a balance problem and up until this year he used a trike. This year he has a conventional bike- but with stabilisors on it. These are big beefy ones so although I do not want to dampen the enthusiasm to get a child to ride- be prepared to possibly fail on the balance issue. Have an alternative in mind such as the stabilisors- but We also have a Home outside the town that caters for The handicapped. They have a couple of 20 year olds that can be seen all over the area on their trikes. I also ride a Tandem and I have been asked If I can train a 40 year old to ride as stoker.

    Good luck in your Tutoring but do not be afraid of it. Just take it steady and try to do it on soft ground for as long as possible.
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  19. #19
    timbentdude
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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    Just curious, can autistic kids really communicate like that? I thought an autistic would not be able to ask you. Is the kid diagnosed as a 'high functioning autistic'.
    Autism is a spectrum disorder that has a wide variety of symtoms. My son is high functioning and you wouldn't know he has it unless you were around him for a long time. He can communicate pretty well but you have pull it out of him he is very quiet. Some are nonverbal and actually carrier picture books and point at the pics to communicate.

    Tim

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