Monday, May 25, 2009

Teaching Safe Cycling to the Wandering Aspie

affiliate links, Asperger's, aspie, autism, cycling, safety, sports

We went for a bike ride with the kids Saturday morning, and I gave some thought to the process we use when riding with him to keep him from accidentally harming himself or anyone else. Gus has the balance to ride a two-wheeler, but at this point, he's still a dangerous cyclist. Because he has such a hard time focusing, he is very unaware of anyone or anything around him. He tends to zigzag and weave along the path. It's actually frustrating for me to ride near him because he so often will swerve right in front of me, and if I'm not careful, I'll either plow into him or fall over or both. Obviously, we can't ride along a road or anything like that with him. Here are some of the strategies we use.

Choose places and times to ride that are the least congested

We've found a trail nearby that will give the kids a 3.5 mile ride, but sometimes (like Mother's Day in the afternoon) it can get a little busy. We went there yesterday at about 8:30 in the morning. That way, although there were still a few people, Gus had lots of space. He still had a close call with an older gentleman on a unicycle, but it was a mostly uneventful ride.

Ride alongside him so he develops the ability to ride in a straight line

Usually when I ride with Gus, I ride on his left and match his pace (usually frustrating and more on this later). My less stellar parenting skills tend to come out at those times, but it does make a difference, and I notice that he tends to stay straighter than when he's left on his own. The problem with this strategy is that we're not riding single file and I end up in people's way. There's also the tendency he has of suddenly getting too close and nearly knocking me over so I don't fall on him. But he improves each time we go out, so I'm trying to be patient about that.

Use a lower gear

I don't know why I never thought of this before. One of the things that was difficult for me riding with either of my kids is that they ride so much slower. I typically ride in a middle gear, but then it always felt like I was crawling. I've seen my husband get off his bike and walk because Gus was in meandering mode. But yesterday I got the idea to just use a lower gear. This allowed me to pedal and my usually rhythm without getting very far so I could pace the kids. It felt like a more enjoyable ride because of that.

Try a trailer or tow bar

I've been considering this option for quite a while, but the thing that stops me from getting a trailer like these (which I'm still considering – just have to figure out if they would work for us and for how long):

I am very seriously considering one of these tag-alongs, particularly the tow bar, which attached a regular child's bike to an adult bike. We'd still have some flexibility with that one, and Gus could ride until he was tired or until we got to an area that was unsafe for him (like crossing a road) and then get a tow. I'd also be able to do some longer rides with MM because she could go on Gus's bigger bike without having to worry about the size too much. Or maybe I'd just get two tow bars (as soon as I hit Lotto - I'll start playing right away). A friend of ours was considering getting the WeeRide style trailer for his daughter who has Arthrogryposis. She needs to exercise and strengthen her leg muscles, but tires easily. This would be a way for him to take her riding for some father-daughter bonding. Being able to handle longer distances with her family would give her self-esteem a boost as well. Lots of uses for these handy gadgets.

So I've offered a few tips for a safer ride with your special needs child. If you ride with your child, how do you teach them to follow safety rules?

Happy Memorial Day if you're in the US, and Happy Monday no matter where you are!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Wonderful tips. You know Andrea I am so wanting to meet Gus. Just since I have been following you and learnign more about him he has become a part of my life it seems like. I know that sounds ridiculous but it's true. You have as well I will admit. I so look forward to these posts from you.

    One thought that crossed my mind with that tag-alongs is do you think it would take away from him being able to be in control of himself and his freedom that he enjoys? You know what I mean? Being on the back and having to follow along might take away from his self confidence and learning and his individuality. This is just a thought and I'm not saying that would happen but for his continued growth and improvement I think the more he can do on his own is how that improves. I know I am asking this crappy cuz it's hard for me to put into words and I hope this makes a little sense. :)

  2. my kids dont know how to ride a bike because the dogs in the neighborhood bark at all kids learning on the sidewalk, we did have one that we kept in kitchen against back door and recently I came across pics of Matt on it. We used to do it in the yard lon ago. Just today as I was waiting for school bus I saw one of those tow bikes.

  3. Thom: We considered the lack of freedom - one reason we haven't gone ahead with the trailer style. As much as it might be safer in some ways, I'm not yet sure how much he would learn to regulate what he's doing. The benefit of the tow bar would be that he could ride on his own but attached when he gets tired. It seems like a more 'middle-grounded' solution. Still haven't made a decision yet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Bonnie: You might want to break out one of the bikes again! Dogs would freak me out too, having been chased and not only barked at. I don't blame you for keeping your boys clear.

  4. You said what I was trying to feebly say. Thank you


Welcome - thanks for sharing your insights!