Whether you enjoy being outside in the fresh air, the wind blowing in your hair, the freedom, company of others and getting splattered with mud: cycling is a fantastic, healthy hobby for everyone.
Having your own set of wheels is a rite of passage for many and these days there is a wealth of designs of traditional and adapted cycles which, along with specialist groups and charities, mean that it’s a more accessible family pastime than ever before.
I have to admit that over the years we’ve invested in many different types of bike to encourage Natty to get pedaling.
Natty showed little interest in learning to use any of them, and preferred instead to ride pillion on a tag-along attachment.
A few glimpses at how close she was to being able to master this tricky skill forced us to find some specialist advice and a teacher.
She might never have learnt to power her own wheels and that wouldn’t have mattered, but we didn’t want to deny her the opportunity of having a go.
Every child is different of course, and you will need to find the appropriate cycle for their needs.
So, here are our cycling tips for children with SEND.
Give Your Child Choice
So often children with SEND have choices constantly made for them by carers, so let your child choose a funky cycle helmet and gloves to get them enthusiastic about cycling and to protect them of course.
Go to a cycling shop and get fitted by a professional, as safety is paramount.
Make it Achievable
Never 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 feeling anxious.
Choose a cycle that makes them feel safe, and if towing your child, always ride in a manner that doesn’t frighten them.
Specialist cycles can be expensive, but some charities will help fund a bespoke or tailor-made product.
There are all kinds of pull-along wagons, balance bike and trikes available. Whatever adaptation or support your child needs, there is likely to be a solution out there somewhere.
See if you can try before you buy or hire on an occasional basis.
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 trailer, to balancing on a tag-along, to pedaling.
Don't forget to take teddy too!
Find a Teacher
Although many children are taught to ride a bike by their parents, some, like Natty, prefer to work with a teacher who isn’t emotionally involved.
You might wish to consider a few lessons from a professional.
Keep Instructions Simple
Natty's teacher broke everything down to three key instructions: 'balance' 'look ahead' and 'pedal'.
You could use Makaton signs or pictures to communicate with your child.
Don't Give Up - Find a Solution
Everyone can enjoy cycling as long as they have the right equipment and there are many groups offering just that.
Inclusive Cycling 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 and Get Cycling Disability provide adapted cycles to special schools and organisations, but there are many local disability cycling groups, so get Googling.
Tomcats and Quest88 produce high quality bespoke trikes for cyclists with disabilities and learning difficulties and charities such as Grants for Trikes exist to help fund these options.
So as we head towards the warmer weather and the school holidays stretch before us, consider making cycling something that your family enjoy doing together.
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