Autism and ebiking


Well-Known Member
Every autistic person is unique, and some do not face mobility challenges. Mobility challenges related to autism can be related to sensory processing difficulties, or to anxiety disorders, or to other issues that can be more common in people who have autism than in the general population. In other words, able bodied autistic people may experience mobility challenges that the typical population does not face.

My teenage son, K, has HFA (high functioning autism, formerly called "aspergers") has long said that he will never drive. He saw his life as being very limited as a result. Turning 16, he saw other teens learning to drive. I think this must have made him feel more disabled, as he doesn't see driving as possible for himself. K has sensory challenges--he experiences feelings of sensory bombardment, receiving input on too many channels too rapidly. I think this might be what makes the idea of driving daunting to him.

K has always loved riding his bike. He was really good on his tricycle. He had trouble pedaling at first, but I zip-tied some sandals to the pedals, and that got him going. Then I was able to cut the zip-ties and he could trike in any kind of shoes. I was able to get him on a two-wheeler with training wheels after some time letting him get used to the idea, but he wasn't willing to try the bike without training wheels. At this point, he was about 8 years old. How to get him to ride a two-wheeler? I spent some time googling I came across the "no pedal method." I got a right-sized bike with hand-brakes, lowered the bike seat, removed the pedals, and, though it took time for him to be willing to get on a bike without training wheels or pedals, since the seat was so low that he could easily stand over the bike, he eventually gave it a try. And, he quickly and successfully learned to expertly glide on a his bike. Then, I couldn't get the pedals back on--he was unwilling to pedal. So, I bought a bike trailer that has a seat and pedals for a kid. We got two, and then as a family of four went riding and that let K experience pedaling again. From there, gradually, he became willing to let me put the pedals back on his two wheeler.

In his elementary school years, we had lots of fun cycling around the smallish plateau area where we live. He was great on his two-wheeler. But, a problem emerged. How could we go anywhere else? It's about a 2 mile ride downhill from our plateau to any other destination. We tried it, but couldn't get him back home without driving down to get him. We got a rack with the idea of driving to bike paths, but didn't really ever get going with that beyond a couple of outings. As he got older, riding around the neighborhood got less appealing, and he rode his bike less and less. Getting him to be physically active was challenging, and I was never very successful.

Last year, when K was 15, I thought "what about an ebike?" I looked into it, and the law in our state limited ebike ridership to those age 16 or up. I decided to wait a year.

So, this Spring, we got ebikes for the whole family. (Meanwhile, an ebike law in my state passed, classifying ebikes (class 1 and class 2) as bicycles, thus removing the age restriction effective this last July).

I did careful research. I needed an reliable product. With the black-and-white thinking common in autism, if my son' had a bike that broke down, I was concerned that he might reject ebiking altogether. I did a lot of reading about different products, watched some of Court's reviews, and decided that I needed to buy from a local bike store. I ended up going with Pedego. They have a new store in my area. It was very easy to do test-rides--the shop was right by a bike lane, perfect for my son who hadn't been riding much. I first went to check it out without my son, and then went later, just he and I. It took some time to get him on the bike, but very quickly he had a big smile and was getting the hang of it. He loved the bike. We ended up getting Pedegos for the whole family, all four of us--two teens and me and my husband.

So, what's been the impact? We've had the bikes for two months, and have seen growth in a variety of areas. Increased venturesomeness. Increased physical activity. Better mood. A new passion (his bike!). More readily interested in going places and doing things. More independent. Less anxiety. Increased vision for his future life and vocation, and growing up. Wow!

I'll end with words my son says to me, almost every day: "Mom, wanna go for a ride?"
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Thanks for this story @ebikemom. The freedom your son has now is priceless and I'm glad to hear that the ebike is helping him interact with the world more. It's always been very heartwarming to me to watch some of my challenged customers grow up knowing they could be more independent with an electric bike.
Thanks for this story @ebikemom. The freedom your son has now is priceless and I'm glad to hear that the ebike is helping him interact with the world more. It's always been very heartwarming to me to watch some of my challenged customers grow up knowing they could be more independent with an electric bike.

It is priceless, and it is great to be a part of! As a dealer of ebikes you are really in a unique position to spread mobility opportunities among so many people who have had limited opportunities in the past. Wonderful! <3
It's great how ebiking is broadening our son's world. He participates in Special Olympics, and asked about ditching the car and riding ebikes to the weekly practice! So, today, off he and my husband went for their 20 mile round trip to the weekly practice. I was going to go, too, but my battery didn't get charged up fast enough.

It's so great to see my son being ACTIVE.

He said that there's one thing he doesn't like about ebiking. "Getting off the bike!"
Another ebiking/autism report--friend's relative's young adult son got an ebike and now rides it to work and for all sorts of things, so no longer is dependent on public transportation. No details, but thought I'd share this. :)