Almost every child wants a bicycle and will spend hours riding if given the opportunity. Obviously, there are safety precautions that any child should follow to avoid injury, but things change a great deal when children suffer from ADHD. After all, any choice on a bicycle requires making a decision and taking action. That, in turn, requires some amount of concentration — a concept that can be significantly more difficult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
In fact, at the end of 2015, the University of Iowa completed and published a study showing that children with ADHD put themselves at greater risk on bicycles at busy intersection. In this study, children both with and without ADHD were put on real-time bicycle simulators and presented with traffic situations. Children with ADHD chose similar traffic gaps as children without the condition, but their timing was poor due to distractions and inability to concentrate. As a result, they didn’t always have enough time to cross the intersection. Additionally, the study found that children with ADHD were much more likely to impulsively cross the street instead of waiting for a bigger traffic gap.
The study found that children with ADHD were much more prone to close calls that could result in injury or even fatal accidents in real life.
Bicycle Safety & Injuries in Children
Bicycle injuries are common in children overall. In other words, children who do not have ADHD are prone to injury, and when the condition is factored in, it puts kids at an even higher risk. Consider these statistics offered by the CDC Department of Motor Vehicle Safety:
– Children under the age of 14 account for more than half of the bicycle related injuries seen in United States emergency rooms.
– In a given year, more than 10,000 children will be hospitalized for injuries due to riding a bicycle.
– Those numbers equal about 13 per 100,000 will end up in the hospital for bicycle related injuries.
– One out of three of these injuries resulted in head trauma.
– 30% of the injuries were due to motor vehicle collisions.
– Children 10-13 years are at highest risk, closely followed by children 6-9 years of age.
These statistics are not reasons to keep a child off a bicycle. Instead, they indicate that any parent of any young child should help their little one learn proper bicycle safety. And, it also means bicycle safety for children with ADHD is even more vital.
One of the first things the University of Iowa study found was that children with ADHD were off in their timing. They would see and recognize a gap in traffic just as the non-ADHD children would, but they wouldn’t approach that gap with proper timing. This could be because something distracted them and they waited too long to cross the intersection or they simply didn’t understand how to time their crossing in the first place.
In order to help your child learn the safest bicycle practices, it could be very helpful to go on bike excursions with them. In the beginning, tell them when the best time to cross the intersection occurs. Then, slowly allow the child to make the decisions with your guidance. This could be helpful in teaching your child timing for crossing streets.
However, the University of Iowa study did find that timing is not necessarily the biggest concern. While it was an issue, the bigger danger to children with ADHD came from patience and avoiding impulsive actions.
All too often in the study, researchers found that children with ADHD were prone to impulsively crossing intersections in traffic when there was not a proper gap, putting them at risk of severe injury. Resolving this problem is much more important than handling timing problems as mentioned previously. That’s because even a lack of timing will not necessarily be an issue if the child has the patience and focus to wait on a proper gap in traffic before crossing the intersection.
It’s important for parents to practice focus and patience in children with ADHD both on a bicycle and off. That’s because a child who has tactics to focus in life will better be able to handle traffic situations and practice bicycle safety.
Some tips to accomplish this include:
– Providing structure in all aspects of their lives. Structure helps avoid stress responses to situations. As far as bicycle safety, specifically state where your child can ride their bike. A structured routine and a specific route will help your child avoid hazardous situations that they were ill-prepared for.
– Allow your child to play certain video games. Studies have shown that video games can actually improve focus in ADHD children.
– Practice persistence. When you and your child are out riding bikes, persistently handle intersections and bicycle safety in the same manner every time. This can establish good habits that the child will follow even when you aren’t there.
– Set clear rules. Children with poor impulse control will respond better when they have rules to follow. This includes at home, in school, or even when they are on their own, such as on a bicycle. Before allowing your child to go outside on their bike, go over the rules again to ensure they remember them.
A child with ADHD is going to need help with both patience and impulse control. The more you work on this at home and in various situations, the better they will be prepared for riding their bicycle safely too.
Understanding Traffic Gaps
Most importantly, bicycle safety for children with ADHD means understanding traffic gaps. Without knowing which gap is best for crossing intersections, a child who has practiced impulse control and patience still may not cross at the right time. Again, teaching this will mean accompanying your child when riding a bike so that you can visually show them the best traffic gaps, distances to choose, and what to avoid.
Remember that when working on this, your child will not always make the right choices and you will likely need to exhibit your own level of patience while they learn. However, if you remain consistent and patient with them, understanding and measuring traffic gaps for proper bicycle safety is a behavior your ADHD child will be able to learn.
If you have a child with ADHD, then bicycle safety is an even bigger issue than with other children. As the University of Iowa study found, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder aren’t equipped with the focus, patience, and impulse control needed to safely ride a bike, especially at busy intersections. However, this doesn’t mean your child should never get on a bicycle if they have ADHD. Instead, there are things you can do to better ensure their safety by working on patience and focus in all aspects of life and by working on timing and understanding traffic while accompanying the child on a bike. It is possible for children with ADHD to understand bicycle safety and follow proper procedures to avoid injury if you work with them on a regular basis.