Learning to ride a bike can be a challenge for all children, but a deaf child may also face communication barriers and balance difficulties. However, with a few adjustments and the right equipment your child can master cycling safely and confidently.
Mum Tracey helps her daughter Hattie (9), who is moderately to severely deaf, stay safe when she’s cycling and can see the impact this has had on her confidence.
“It was good to see her learning how to use the quiet roads, staying to the left (with hand signals to remind her!) and stopping for people walking in front of her on the pavements. Hattie glows with independence whilst cycling and it’s fantastic to see.”
Top cycling tips from parents of deaf children
Here’s a round-up of cycling tips from parents to help you build your deaf child’s confidence and make sure they stay safe whilst they ride their bike.
- “I started with my son (aged six) on a tag-along. He struggled with balance even on his balance bike but when we introduced his scooter, his balance really started to improve and give him confidence.”
- “Get your child to ride their bike between two adults.”
- “My seven-year-old cycles to school every day with me walking alongside.”
- “Before he started riding on his own bike, at six years old, we walked the route during the summer and talked about what to be careful of along the way. So even now when it rains and we’re without technology he can still ride his bike.”
- “We set boundaries before we start like... you can go as far as three lamp posts or stop at the next road.”
- “We talked about what we were trying to achieve each time before trying it for real.”
Mum Nicky and Dad Mike helped their son Oliver (7), who is severely deaf, develop his cycling confidence by focusing on his balance and practising with him.
“We tried to encourage him to use the balance bike but he was reluctant, so we bought him a scooter for his fifth birthday which helped with his balance. We bought him the right-sized bike and spent the summer practising.”
“Use their radio aid if they have one! It's brilliant for bike rides. (But may be too noisy if it’s windy or there’s heavy traffic).”
Mike also uses the radio aid his son Oliver (9), who is moderately deaf, uses at school when cycling.
“I can warn him about things coming up, remind him to look both ways, even encourage him to pedal when he’s tired.”
“If we're out and about in parks and woods he has to stick to the path and stop every few minutes or at every junction. It takes the worry away because he knows what's expected in advance and sticks to it so he feels safe.”
- “Fit bike mirrors so they can see behind/all around them.”
- “We got a high visibility jacket with ‘Caution I'm Deaf’ printed on the back via our local deaf children's society.”
Tracey makes sure Hattie (9) knows exactly what to do during her bike ride before they set off so she can stay safe.
“Before we set off Hattie and I have a discussion about what she’s allowed to do, how far ahead or behind she can go and what hand signals we’re going to use. We practise the hand signals beforehand so she knows what they mean i.e. left, right, car coming or slow down. It’s pretty much what they should be learning when cycling anyhow.”
British Cycling have more road safety tips.
Make sure you get your child kitted out with a good quality cycling helmet that complies with BS or CE safety standards. Although wearing a helmet won’t stop accidents happening, it will make sure your child is well protected.
How do you go about choosing the right helmet for your deaf child? Hearing aid and implant technology comes in different shapes and sizes and so do cycle helmets. You may find some helmets fit well over your child’s hearing technology and others don’t. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
So, make sure you visit a reputable cycle shop and get your child to try on different models to make sure you choose the right fit. Many types of helmet can easily be adjusted via straps or adjusters.
Cycle helmet tips
- “My daughter (3) wears a cycle helmet over BTE (behind-the-ear) aids quite happily.”
- “After trying other helmets we ended up buying him a BMX style bike helmet as it cuts up behind his ears and doesn’t interfere with his hearing aids.”
- “We bought an adjustable cycling helmet for my son (5). It can be adjusted at the back and fits perfectly over his implants. We had to buy a small adult size as the children’s one didn’t adjust far enough.”
- “We got her a bike helmet which has a knob adjuster at the back to alter the fit. It’s a bit of a pain but we widen it up as far as it goes, put it on her head and then tighten it up.”
Bike mirrors can be useful to make sure your child develops good visual awareness and knows what’s going on all around them. Mirrors can usually be attached to handlebars and some types can be clipped on to cycle helmets. However, it’s also important that your child learns to establish eye contact with drivers when cycling in traffic to make sure they’ve been seen.
Created by a deaf cyclist for other deaf cyclists, DeafBikeSigns are a simple but effective way to alert other cyclists, road users and pedestrians about their deafness. They come in many different shapes and sizes, including fluorescent stickers, aluminium plates and sew-on patches. You can buy them online via American retailer DeafBikeSigns which also ships internationally.