Bike riding is a compilation of many skills. A child must have the postural strength and stability to maintain an upright posture on the bike while riding. Pedaling requires leg strength, endurance, and coordination of both sides of the body. Steering and avoiding danger require the ability to visually scan the environment and make appropriate adjustments as the bike is moving. Most importantly, a child must really want to learn how to ride a bike. It cannot be solely be the desire of the parents/guardians.
Children with Sensory Processing Disorder may be fearful of movement, have poor body awareness, poor balance, decreased strength, or difficulty integrating visual information with movement. It is therefore imperative that a trained occupational therapist analyze a child’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to the components required for bike riding. Breaking down the task is critical for the child’s success.
The process of bike riding at ATS is a little bit different than most bike riding programs. We begin with an evaluation of the child’s skills as they will support their ability to learn this complicated process. Determining an appropriate bike size and recommending appropriate safety gear are critical elements within this process. This discussion should occur at least a few sessions prior to beginning the bike lessons so that families are ready to roll! Reoccurring discussions between the parents and the child ensuring them a safe journey through this process is essential.
Preparing the bike will most likely entail removing the pedals, lowering the seat so the child’s feet touch the ground, and moving the handlebars. Basically, whatever adjustments are necessary to ensure a good fit. The child must be able to comfortably walk the bike and pick it up if it falls before the lessons can begin.
Stationary balance is the first step of the bike riding lesson. On level ground, the child lifts up both feet off the ground and try to keep their feet up for up to 10-15 seconds. The second step is gliding. With the pedals off of the bike, have the child push themselves forward with both feet. Count how many seconds they can go with a goal of gliding for at least 10 to 15 feet without falling. This skill must be practiced at home in between sessions. The third step is bike jumping. The child will sit on the seat of the bike and jump from side to side. Fourth, the pedals are put back on and the seat slightly raised to begin moving on the bike while pedaling. Lastly, the child will learn to tilt their body with the bike as they negotiate progressively sharper curves.
Riding a bike is an essential life skill for children. Mastery of this skill is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a young child. The look on a child’s face and the excitement that can be seen in their body language when they have taken that bike for a ride independently is absolutely incredible! Let us help your child gain mastery over the incredible task of bike riding. Call or email Marie Mancini-Oliveira MS, OTR/L at 860-721-9999