Most children take to riding a bike at a very young age with a lot of help from their parents and some dedication.
For children with special needs whether they be intellectual or physical disabilities, this skill takes some extra help, practice and a few more years.
The You Can Ride Two bike program through Aspire Special Needs Resource Centre is new this year and saw a group of 12 students learn how to ride a bike.
“It’s not about whether they can ride a bike by themselves when the program is done, it might take two or three years, but the skills they learn in the process add to their lives,” said Kitty Parlby, chair of the program.
Parlby’s son took part in the program that ran from May to June and at age 15 has learned how to ride a bicycle for the first time in his life.
“This is great for our family because there are so few things we can do together physically because of the motor skills that come with autism, but this is something we can really do as a family,” said Parlby.
She said the fact that her son can now get on his bicycle and go on trips with his family means the world to her because it’s something she never thought he would be able to do.
“The way they taught him was great and they did it in ways I never thought of including taking the pedals off of the bike and just getting the kids used to balancing the bike before worrying about pedalling.”
Children enrolled in the program took part in a comprehensive bike-riding course that started with the basics like learning to steer and stop to coordinating pedalling with looking straight ahead.
“Next year we are doing it in conjunction with the kinesiology and adapted physical education students at the College,” said Jan Gervais, occupational therapist with Aspire involved with the You Can Ride Two program.
The program started out for children with motor coordination disabilities and has since expanded to include some with intellectual disabilities.
Melanie Harris, physical therapist with Aspire also involved with the program, said biking is kind of a right of passage for kids.
“It’s something they can do with family and friends and sometimes is more difficult for the little guys in our class who have special needs.”
She said being in a group of peers who all struggle with the ability to ride a bike encourages the other children and becomes “contagious” for the others.
The program will run again next year through Aspire Special Needs Resource Centre.
For more information, visit www.aspirespecialneeds.ca or call 403-340-2606.