Article by Abby Twyman, M.Ed., BCBA
Teaching any child to ride a bike can be a difficult task. Add in the physical difficulties some individuals with autism have in relation to strength, balance and coordination and the difficulty level rises dramatically. Just like any skill, however, there’s always a way to teach. Direct instruction is a method by which each step of a skill is specifically taught and chained together until the skills can be used altogether. In a research article published by S. Sunay Yıldırım, Özgül Bike Yücalan, and
Hafizullah from the University Institute of Social Sciences in Konya, Turkey, they have broken down the task of riding a bike into its component parts. Here is the task analysis of the skill:
- The subject’s care is focused on the bicycle.
- When the subject focused on the activity, he is reinforced verbally. (Well done, very good, etc.).
- Hold the steering wheel with two hands (Right one to right side and left one to left side.
- Hold up your right foot and pass it through the body of the bicycle.
- Put your foot on the right pedal.
- Put your left foot on the left pedal leaning over the steering Wheel
- Sit on the chair of the bicycle.
- After having the balance, put the steering wheel in the straight position.
- Push down your right foot heavily.
- Repeat this work continuously.
- Rotate the wheels of the bicycle by turning the pedal with your feet.
- Ride along a specified distance.
- Grasp the brake handle with your hand.
- Give up turning the pedal ( Stop strongly turning the pedal).
- Stop the bicycle.
- Step your left foot on the ground.
- Hold up your right foot from the pedal while getting support from the steering wheel with your hands.
- Pass your foot through the body of the bicycle.
- Step it next to your left one on the ground.
- Get off the bicycle.
In their study, they were able to effectively teach 3 students with autism how to ride a bicycle. This study is important because many times parents will avoid teaching their child to ride a bike due to the difficult nature of teaching such a skill. Avoiding teaching the skill, however, can limit their ability to participate in regular childhood activities like riding bikes around the neighborhood. This is a socially important skill for your child to learn and by breaking it down into small steps and using direct instruction, any child can learn how to do it!