Sometimes being a parent to a child with special needs is a dilemma. We never want to set limits on what our daughter can achieve, but we also want to accept her for the person she is and not be guilty of pushing her relentlessly to try to meet unattainable goals.
|Get Set Go! Our SEND Cycling Tips|
This would make her miserable and feel as if she had disappointed us. We of course love and accept both our daughters just the way they are.
Cycling was a case in point.
Natty is 8 years old now and until this week has been very happy to be pulled along on a tag-along bike (see Why Cycle for impartial advice), or to pedal a trike, but has robustly resisted her balance bike or bicycle with or without stabilisers.
I felt she was physically ready to learn to ride, and keen to use long stretches of Summer holiday to see if we could help her learn. Daddy Downs Side Up was less certain, and said it didn't matter if she rode a trike as an adult, as Grandma does. Of course he was right. It didn't matter, but I just wanted to see if she could learn to do it. I wanted her to have that freedom if it was possible.
So, after chatting to a cycling addict friend, we decided that a 3rd party teacher would be the best route. A professional who had seen it all before. Someone Natty would enjoy the 1-to-1 attention of for an hour. A bit of Googling later and we'd found her!
It turns out that it was the best investment of time and money, for after one lesson with Jackie, Natty had found her balance and was cycling with minimal support. A couple of hours later with help from her very patient and determined big sister Mia in the garden, and we had this....
Our Top Tips for Helping Your Child Enjoy Cycling
Allow Your Child to Make ChoicesLet your child choose a funky cycle helmet and gloves to get them enthusiastic about cycling and to protect them of course. Go to your local cycling shop and get fitted by a professional if possible. Safety is paramount.
Make it AchievableNever push a child beyond what they are comfortable with and what their confidence says they are ready for. Nothing will put a child or young person off any activity faster than when learning becomes a battleground. Start on a bike that's small enough for them to feel safe with, where their feet can be firmly on the ground.
Research CarefullyMany children love to begin on a balance bike which they can walk along. Natty had a balance bike/trike that flips over for two heights by Wishbone Designs. Pricey, but potentially about 8 years of balance biking in one piece of kit.
There are also all kinds of pull along wagons and trikes available. Work out what will suit your child's needs.
Keep it fun!Go out as a family to different safe locations to cycle together. Younger children can be put in a cycle seat or a tag along bike when older. These can often be hired along with fabulous adult tricycles for those who can't ride a bike.
Praise your child for every step, from sitting still in a bike seat, to balancing on a tag-along, to pedaling. Make cycling a positive experience.
Don't forget to take teddy in a seat on the back!
Find a TeacherAlthough many children are taught to ride a bike by their parents, some, like Natty, prefer to listen to a teacher. You might wish to consider a few lessons from a professional. We found someone via the Bikeability training network. Find a teacher near you via their website here.
Keep Instructions SimpleNatty's teacher broke everything down to three key instructions: 'balance' 'look ahead' and 'pedal'. You could use Makaton signs for these elements if necessary.
Don't Give Up - Find a SolutionEveryone can enjoy cycling as long as they have the right equipment.
CTC is a national cycling charity that offer a range of adapted cycling solutions to help get everyone on wheels, whatever their physical or balance needs. Find out which Inclusive Cycling centre is near you.
Get Cycling Disability provide adapted cycles to special schools and organisations. Could they help your community? See their work here.
Tomcats produce high quality bespoke trikes for cyclists with disabilities and learning difficulties, as do Quest88. And there are charities available to help fund these options as well as second hand cycles available to buy.
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