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!