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Summer 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Jean Robinson, Visually Impaired Family Support, TSBVI Outreach

Abstract: Mothers of children with visual impairments share their experiences teaching them to ride a bike.

Keywords: blind, visually impaired, children, bicycles, parent listserve, advice

The Texas VI Family Listserv is a great way to connect to other families and to ask those questions that you may be afraid to ask or forget to ask when meeting with professionals. Many of the answers can only be found from experienced family members. Here are several answers given to a mom’s question about bicycle riding. If you have a child, grandchild, or other family member with a visual impairment living in Texas you are eligible to subscribe. Send your request to: <> or f<>.

Deborah Sims:

I have a question regarding bicycle riding. Does anyone have a child with low vision or blind who rides a bike? My son is six and has low vision from Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). He is quite successful riding his scooter to and from school everyday and he goes really fast and loves it. He rides better than his twin brother!! Go figure.

He also has a learner bike called Glider (originally from Germany called Puky). It is a bike without pedals and has a platform for the feet to rest while the bike is rolling. Anyway, he will ride it sometimes and he has a great time, but he will not put his feet on the platform unless we encourage him. He can do it, but I guess he is just not comfortable. Does anyone out there have a success story to share in regards to riding a bicycle? Thanks a mill.

Parent Responses

Sally Thomas:

My son is mostly blind, a braille reader and he rides a bike. His athletic, fully sighted sister is the one who ran into a parked car! He began riding a bike (no training wheels) when he was about 6 1/2—never had a problem with it. He was encouraged to lose the training wheels when the other kids in the neighborhood his age were already riding without theirs. I feel comfortable with him riding in our neighborhood when he has someone riding with him. We plan to get a tandem bike for longer rides. He has completely blind friends who also ride bikes. I’m not sure how they do it, but they do. I think it takes a lot of encouragement to get some kids comfortable with riding a bike. It may be more of a personality issue than a blindness issue. I’ve seen sighted kids who took years to master a bike and kids like my son who were ready in a day. Just keep on trying and encouraging. That’s my 2 cents.

Kim Cunningham:

My daughter is low vision from ROP also. Because she has a small amount of vision in one eye, she had a little harder time learning to ride her bike. I would notice that her center of gravity was off due to her trying to use her vision. I would hold on to the back of her shirt while practicing, and I noticed that she was always leaning to the side. I couldn’t get her to keep the bike upright. We began teaching her when she was five, but she didn’t learn to ride until she was 10. Almost every weekend she would get on her bike and try to ride by herself. She never gave up. Then one day her brother was visiting and he started working with her. She got on and took off! We were thrilled for her after all the years of trying. Even now when she rides, she is not keeping the bike perpendicular to the sidewalk and tends to lean a little bit. I also see that her knee is pointing out on one side and not kept close to the bike like sighted kids do. But, she found her own way and it works for her. My suggestion is to NOT give up and let your son find his own way that is comfortable and secure for himself. Keep the can-do attitude!

Suzanna Mouton: My son was low vision when he was 6. He has since become totally blind, however he did learn to ride a bike when he was low vision and also a Braille reader and cane user. We worked and worked and worked with him, and he finally did it and it was such an accomplishment! The joy on his face! He did quit once he totally lost his vision but his best friend bought a tandem bike and they used to ride it all through the neighborhood! The thing is, once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget and I believe my son could get on a bike at the age of 22 and still be able to ride. I agree, encouragement is the key! Michele Chauvin: I agree. Tricycles, training wheels, no training wheels, tandem bikes, etc. Lauren has not been interested in tricycles or bicycles, yet. We keep trying. She enjoys and learns well with the H-U-H (hand under hand) method with most things. I think we may get a tandem bike or more likely an adult bike plus an arch extension - the kind for a smaller rider or child to fit on the back of the bike and peddle themselves. This might encourage Lauren to use a bicycle as a means to an end (getting from home to the park, etc.). She loves running, climbing, jumping, swimming, and even sliding down those giant pool slides at water parks. I tend to agree with Sally that it may be more of a personality preference. Luke and I don’t ride bikes, although we know how. We read books a lot and love music. So guess what Lauren likes to do? But we’ll keep trying with the bicycle thing. Here’s a great website about movement and activities for blind and VI kids. Dan Kish spoke at a breakout session a few years ago during TX Focus. He is a blind COMS or O&M instructor, who takes blind kids mountain bike riding, etc. I love his ball in a plastic grocery bag idea to include blind/VI kids with their sighted peers, as an alternative to goal ball, etc. Check it out!!! www.worldaccessfortheblind.org

Bonnie:

I am also mom to a Daniel. Here is what happens with a 4 1/2 year old legally blind kid (about 20/360, worse in bright light) on his first 2 wheeler with training wheels. Here are the “before” pics, when I got the bike from Freecycle. Here are the “after part 1” pictures— we made it much more sensory friendly. He loved the streamers on his tricycle, and said “big boys have squeaky bikes” meaning old ones that squeak. We found him an annoyingly squeaky horn instead, to go with the bell already on it, and the orange bike flag for added safety. And the “after part 2” pictures—well, before and after. When he saw it, we though he would do his over excited “Happy Flappy” dance. Nope! He said “Thomas bike” as he ran up to it and got on and rode off—like “it’s about darn time I had a Thomas bike” Dad said he flipped it over 273 times (see handlebars and broken off horn— he even had bent the handlebars on fall #271 when he broke the horn, but Dad and Uncle Walter bent them back) *Not a scratch* on Daniel! Dad’s legs are torn up from trying to stop/lessen the falls. Daniel thought the falls were funny. Not surprised, this is the kid that was swinging on a platform swing like a madman at rehab this morning, he reached to point to something and flipped off and under the swing. As Mary (therapist) and I started to move in, he says calmly “Daniel looking bottom swing” Reminds me of the Pee Wee Herman line “I meant to do that.”

As he went to bed tonight Daniel said after school and rehab tomorrow he and Daddy were going to take another “Tall ride” (opposite of “short ride” is “tall ride”) with his Thomas bike. Dad now agrees he needs a helmet but is still saying “no” to the elbow and knee pads Another day like today may change his mind. Gonna be a long summer—is there a discount pass for the ER? I think we may be needing it. A lot.

Deborah Sims: Thank you for your replies. I wasn’t sure if it was too much for me to ask of him. It’s so good to hear it’s not impossible. We’ll keep chugin’ away!!

One Day Later

Deborah Sims: Thank you all for your replies. It’s really good to hear of success stories. I now have one to add to the mix here. The day I sent out an email to txvifamily looking for encouragement, I find out Daniel rode his bike (no training wheels) around the black top trail!!! Whoohoo!!!! I took my daughter to swim practice that evening and got back late. I didn’t know it, but while we were gone, daddy and the boys went for a bike ride and guess what? ...long story short, the next morning, Daniel rode his bike to school!!!!!!! We are so proud of him. I couldn’t believe my eyes!! He did it!!!