Autism affects 1 in 160 children worldwide which can limit the capability of children to do different activities. Cycling is one of those activities that kids with autism may have difficulties in learning. The good news is being taught to ride a bike can help alleviate the symptoms of autism and there are certain skills that are developed in the process. Bike riding is an outdoor interest that offers several benefits to a child with autism from improving balance and coordination to enhancing concentration and focus.
Autism Symptoms and Treatment
Depending on the severity of the condition, a child with autism may face issues with balance and body awareness as well as several physical challenges. There may also be problems with attention and concentration that prevent children with autism from learning things. They may also be highly sensitive to different sensory stimuli such as textures, odors, lights, and sounds.
Occupational therapy to improve skills and enable children with autism become more independent are usually undertaken. Sensory integration therapy includes getting sensory toys that assist kids in developing physical and mental abilities. These toys help stimulate one or more of the 5 senses. Letting kids participate in a wide range of activities to develop skills is also recommended. Such programs focus on play skills, learning techniques, and self-care. Teaching a child with autism to ride a bicycle is one of these activities that is used to tackle both physical difficulties and learning issues of kids with autism.
The Effects of Cycling on Children with Autism
Due to the challenges of balance and coordination, a lot of children on the autism spectrum may never learn to ride a bicycle. But, a study by Shim et al suggested that kids with autism were able to improve stability scores after five weeks of training on a no-pedal balance bike. The study further revealed that starting on a no-pedal balance bicycle can help kids with special needs transition to a two-wheeler without fear of falling or the use of training wheels.
There are also other benefits of riding a bike without pedals. Using an adapted bicycle and individualized training can improve learning among children with autism. Tandem bikes allow the kid to be seated in front of an adult reducing the number and skills needed to ride a bike, The advantage of using a tandem bike is those front riders have the feeling that they are steering because they have their own handlebars. Moreover, they can also contribute to pedaling, but the adult has full control of the bicycle.
This type of modified learning enhanced motor skills and balance. It also strengthened the muscles and improved their self-confidence because of the feeling that they have accomplished something that they were not able to before. Cycling also help those on the autism spectrum improve their social skills. When children learn to ride bikes, they have something in common with others who are also learning and they can talk about it for hours giving them a common area for discussion and social interaction.
Learning to ride a bicycle might be a difficult task for a child with autism and unfortunately, some may never be able to do it. However, during the learning process, they benefit from the rewards of riding. Improvement in stability, coordination, behavioral, and social interactions are some of the advantages of learning to get on a saddle for a child with special needs.
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