Education professor cycles to help autistic students learn

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

French-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Nothing wrong with mixing a little business and pleasure; not when it helps children.

In this case, educational psychology professor Brian French ( is combining his love of cycling with a desire to help the Lake Pend Oreille School District meet the needs of autistic students.

Saturday’s Chafe 150 Gran Fondo is a 150-mile bicycle ride that starts and finishes in Sandpoint, Idaho, on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, winding into Montana through the valleys of the Cabinet Mountains.

And it’s perfectly suited for French, who is director of the Washington State University College of Education’s Learning and Performance Research Center.

“This is a good way of combining my personal hobby of endurance sports with my professional focus on increasing student achievement,” he said.

Proceeds to fight autism

Brian French

Proceeds from the Chafe 150 will go to the Lake Pend Oreille School District to help staff meet the needs of students within the autism spectrum.

According to the Northwest Autism Center ( in Spokane, Wash., autism is estimated to affect one in every 68 children in the United States, making it more common than cancer, diabetes or any other childhood disease or disorder.

“With the high incidence of autism, there is a pressing need for effective programs and services,” said WSU special education professor Darcy Miller. “Children and youth with autism are included in every school and classroom and are integral participants in our communities. Providing these children with high-quality services, to increase their potential and facilitate positive future outcomes, needs to be a top priority for all of us.”

Riders their own fundraiser page and can win awards based on how much money they bring in. French doesn’t expect to win any awards but is happy that anything given will go to a good cause.

Peer support

For some, biking 150 miles might seem like the hardest physical thing they’ve done. For French, it should’nt be too bad. He’s been riding for more than 10 years and lives an active lifestyle.

Besides, he won’t have too much time to dwell on burning lungs or legs. He’ll be riding with Ben Adkins from Palouse Family Medicine, which means he’ll have some positive peer pressure.

“We’ll be supporting each other throughout the ride,” French said.

To donate to Brian French’s ride:

For more on the Chafe 150 Gran Fondo:


Brandon Chapman, WSU College of Education communications,, 509-335-6850