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Old 10-13-07, 04:35 AM   #1
sd790
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Teaching a Child with Autism

I wanted to share my recent success with you, hopefully to help others with autistic children...

My six-year-old daughter has been wanting to ride for at least a year, but her diminished sense of balance made learning very difficult. Originally got her a smaller bike that came with training wheels, but realized that she would outgrow it before she got comfortable on it. I replaced it with a Huffy 18" single-speed MTB that has a heavy, solid feel to it and put some big after-market training wheels on it.

This kind of setup was just what she needed! The heaviness of the bike made her feel secure and the heavy-duty training wheels gave her an extra boost of confidence. Over the summer, I have been adjusting the training wheels higher and higher (without her knowing) so that she started becoming less dependent on them and was unknowingly becoming more dependent on her sense of balance. For the whole month of September, she was riding with the training wheels on the bike, but 3-4 inches off the ground. The whole time, I gave her lots of praise and encouragement, but never pushed the idea of riding without the training wheels.

Whenever she was riding, I was directly behind her (on my bike) speaking directly to her with a calm tone of voice. I tried to be the "inner voice" that would say what needs to be done. "Sit up straight... here comes a bump... great job... pedal a little harder... this is fun... turn with your handlebars... don't lean too much... slow down...etc." Since my daughter thinks in terms of following the rules, this constant reinforcement of the rules of riding helped her SO much. I was talking to her so much that the rest of my family couldn't get a word in during these small rides. It was well worth it, though.

That all changed last week. Out of the blue, she asked me to remove the training wheels "just to try". I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw her ride away without any problem at all. Of course, I had to jump on my bike and sprint to catch up to her. We ended up riding together for the entire afternoon with no casualties. Guess what we'll be doing this weekend!
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Old 10-13-07, 08:15 AM   #2
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Congratulations to you both! Have a child with autism as well and can relate.
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Old 10-13-07, 07:34 PM   #3
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Best thing I read today.

Wonderful.
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Old 10-13-07, 08:11 PM   #4
chephy
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It's always a little miracle when somebody who couldn't ride a bike before suddenly can. Have fun on the weekend; hope the skies send some great weather your way!
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Old 10-15-07, 05:27 AM   #5
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Congratulations to your daughter and you! How wonderful! Have fun, and enjoy!
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Old 10-15-07, 06:06 AM   #6
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Thanks for the warm comments. I am amazed by how riding her bike helps her feel balanced now - she definitely had an "on" weekend. I think it's a great form of OT (occupational therapy) without the cost or hassle.
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Old 10-19-07, 11:27 AM   #7
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I do work as a school for Autistic kids, but I am the IT manager... so I am no expert on autisitc kids. I can tell you that I enjoy longer rides with my 6 year old daughter using a trailer bike. Specicifally we have the Wee-Ride Co-Pilot. We got it this Spring for $69 (free shipping at that time). This is a great solution to get her used to riding somewhat alone and gets the feeling of riding, yet I am not worried about her getting tired too soon. I can actually feel her helping me move along. I just let her know when we get close to an intersection to stop, so that I can apply the bakes and slow down. This might work well with your daugher as well.

Just note that the Co-Pilot is not the best qulity bike in the world, but it is not worse than the $100 to $150 units I have seen elsewhere. We had a bad rear sprocket on the bike and found out within the first 15 miles of use. I called support and they were very friendly and sent me out an entirely new bike.

Happy riding,
André
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