It’s as simple as the steps needed to learn how to ride a bike! This is a tough skill to master! If you are already aware your child struggles with their gross motor skills they may need some more practice. Or help for them to achieve their ambition of learning to ride a bike.
Riding a bike is a lifelong skill used by many people.
As a parent helping your child practice this skill, your choice of words and instruction will be really important. It is key that you have phrases/words that are clear and concise and related to the activity so there is no confusion. For example to prompt your child to start the instruction ‘pedal ready’ could be used and for stopping ‘both brakes on; feet down’ also prompts during cycling could be ‘looking forwards’ and/or ‘keep pedalling’. Try to give praise at the end of the attempt so your child is not distracted during. But you will work out what your child responds to best during your practice time – as everyone does learn differently!
A reward chart could also be really helpful during teaching your child how to ride a bike. This is not a tool to motivate your child to want to ride a bike in the first instance. But it can be used to reward for small success’ to keep their interest in the activity and during the large amounts of practice you will need to complete. For example you could reward for individual skills such as good listening or looking; good efforts/attempts or awareness of different safety aspects of cycling, for example, them putting on their helmet independently. This way they will feel they are starting to learn to ride a bike. Even if they may not be independently cycling yet.
If you are continuing to find it a difficult skill to teach your child, you could begin to explore nearby groups in your area that may support your child with their bike riding.
For example, a Disability Sports Officer may be able to signpost you to a nearby group. Or the local council representative for Cycling proficiency and development of additional cycling skills such as signalling or moving around obstacles. You could check with your child’s school if they offer a course similar to this too.
The Department of Transport also has a brilliant website. It includes lots of information about bike ability courses near you – http://bikeability.org.uk/
If you as a family are still really struggling to help your child learn how to ride a bike after trying different strategies. Or perhaps them trying to take part in a group based course then contact us! We can tailor specific sessions with a clear action plan to work towards your child’s/family goal in a participation focussed way. With an emphasis on contextual situations. For example where your child wants to be able to ride their bike and who with. During the session we would expect you as a parent/carer if you can, to be physically and actively involved. So that you can continue with the ‘teaching tips’ we will provide you to help progress your child’s skill levels in-between therapy led sessions to ensure your child succeeds.
If your child continues to struggle they need to be assessed for an adapted type of bike to provide them more support. This could be explored through a social type of cycling group. Some may run in your area with adapted tricycles that you could try. Or it could be directly from an assessment with a company that we could assist and support you. With and perhaps the process of charity funding too if this is a route you are keen to pursue.
Written by: Emily Walton (Specialist Children’s Physiotherapist)