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Cycling for children with autism, some information

October 19, 2018

Does your child likes to ride a bicycle? Well, most kids do and it is a life skill that children should learn.

Cycling can be a challenge for some children on the autism spectrum and they may take longer than others to learn.

Meera Natarajan's son, who has autism, was among those who learned in a few days and she says it has made a world of difference to her child.

"Cycling helped him overcome the fear of being outdoors. It has also helped improve his confidence, made him independent and happier," says Meera.

For some kids riding a bicycle can become challenging due to gross motor and sensory processing issues. So they may face issues like,

- Difficulty in balancing

- Not able to understand the force needed to push the pedals

- Difficulty in coordinating steering and pedalling

- Not being able to stop the bicycle

- Feeling safe while riding

- Staying aware of surroundings

- Following others

- Tolerating movement of the bicycle

However, these challenges can be overcome through guidance, training and practice.

The best way to help the child learn is by taking one step at a time. Instead of trying to teach them all the riding skills at once, start with one thing first. This should ideally be balancing, or learning how to get on the seat and get down. Taking it small will help the child get comfortable, learn better and gain confidence.

Choosing the bicycle as per the comfort and need of the child is also crucial. Children with autism can use normal bicycles or augmented bikes and tandem cycles. The choice depends on the comfort level and ability of the child.

Three-wheeled bikes are more stable than a two-wheel cycle. A tandem bike, which has two seats, can take two people riding at the same time. One person can steer and pedal, while the other can sit and ride along.

Experts say learning to ride a bicycle is a good exercise for children with autism. It is not only good for their physical health, but also helps with coordination and motor skills.

Cycling also encourages children to spend more time outdoors and improves their social skills.

Some children may take a little more time to learn cycling but once they do, it becomes a pleasure in their lives. Parents should be patient and not give up on the activity. A child can be helped step by step through therapy, training and guidance to learn skills. - Vimal Balachandran, Parent of child with Fragile X syndrome.

There are plenty of colourful models available in the market to choose from. So, go ahead and encourage your child to learn.

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