Ask BikePortland: Who can teach my autistic teen how to ride?

Ask BikePortland: Who can teach my autistic teen how to ride?

“My notion and hope is that there is some bicycle whisperer, bike shop dude, or cycling samaritan out there.”

Today’s Ask BikePortland question comes from a reader who is looking for a very specific kind of help. This is a bit different than our usual fare for this column. Instead of just trying to answer the question, we plan to forward tips and offers to help onto the reader (a woman who has asked to remain anonymous).

Here’s the email that includes the question and request for help:

Subject: Need an Awesome Pedaling Guru for Awesome 18-year old ASD son

I have a great-natured son who is 18, a High School Senior, and a young adult challenged by some impact of living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Every adult that has ever worked with him cherishes his personality and work ethic. Neither he nor my younger son (age 15) have learned to ride. My older son is driven to become independent and enjoys going for walks, hikes, car rides, and any opportunity to view scenery and breathe fresh air.

I strongly believe that cycling would bring him more confidence, thrill, possibilities…maybe even a friend some day. He feels so inferior to his peers. There were a few family bike hand-me-downs over the years and some unsuccessful attempts to teach him but his readiness and issues with fear and failure were barriers. There was one incident with my former spouse (his father) that I believe caused deep-rooted insecurity and discouragement.

20140928 Aidan bday18

(Photo courtesy Lisa Graham)

I’ve been told by several well meaning souls to buy or modify a special bike for him to scoot or coast upon for balance and practice. Knowing this kid’s history and “feeling” my budget, I’m hesitant to invest in something so temporary and have a different vision for what successful lessons might look like.

My notion and hope is that there is some bicycle whisperer, bike shop dude, or cycling Samaritan out there with access to bikes of all types; Someone cool to connect with that can teach my son without the pressure or annoyance that parents sometimes bring to a situation. A community class designed for children would definitely not be a good fit as it would make him feel embarrassed and may be sensory overload.

If he or she (bike mentor) could meet privately with my son and provide the type of bike best suited for the particular lesson then I would be willing to invest in a bike once the skill is in place and the security is in place. Do you know of anyone who has performed such a service or had experience with such a relationship? They would be an Angel in my book.

What do you think?

Well… Who has some advice for this woman? I’d love to see her son learn to ride a bike!

If you have suggestions, please get in touch with us and we’ll connect you to the right person.

— Read more questions and answers at the Ask BikePortland home page.

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