Tyler is a complex case study. Tyler has so far defied diagnosis by his doctors, but a number of symptoms are present including low muscle tone. Tyler is also non-verbal. Tyler has tactile defensiveness. Tyler is perhaps one of the more challenging children with whom we’ve worked, as trying to get Tyler onto a bike of any kind was a continual problem. Tyler attended our first adapted bike camp in New York in October 2003, and then again in August 2004. We are pleased that Tyler graduated onto his two-wheeler and without training wheels. His mother, Karen and APE Therapist Helen shed tears of joy. Helen now reports
“I have a lot of information on Tyler and his progress, plus the comments and emotions of his family. They now include in their schedule daily rides as a family. They say he (Tyler) just smiles and doesn’t want to get off the bike.”
Nathan is from Fond du Lac WI. Nathan is diagnosed with autism. His parents are very caring, as both Nathan’s mom and dad came to the camp to assist “on the floor.” With children diagnosed with autism, we find that it is important to have an aide or even a parent present to help work with the child. Children with autism spectrum disorders don’t like sudden changes, or strangers, so it helps our therapy if someone is present who knows the nuances of the child. It took two times being enrolled, but during the second week of bike camp Nathan really got into the hang of bike riding. Nathan’s mom and dad also got to do lots of running. That is Nathan’s mom in white top (above right) getting her exercise keeping up with Nathan. It was critical that Nathan use a bike with a bike training handle, in case he ever needed a little help. Notice the bike that Nathan is riding. It has been configured with the crank-set (also called bottom bracket) shifted forward and somewhat lower. This places the pedals in a comfortable position — closer to the ground than as compared to your typical BMX or other popular racing image bike. The handlebars have been lifted using what is called a “stem extender.” If children with challenges are to be able to ride two-wheelers, it is imperative that they be provided with bikes that are user friendly for them. Most bikes sold today are not user friendly, but rather nightmares dreamed up by marketing experts who sell glitter and not ergonomically efficient bikes.
Jon is diagnosed with Down syndrome. Jon had never been able to ride a two-wheeler prior to coming to our adapted bike program at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park CA, in 2002. Laura Harper, APE (Adapted Physical Educator), is getting her workout keeping up with John. When Jon first realized that he had ridden a bike, he jumped off at the end of this ride and did a victory dance including spinning around and spiking his helmet — as if he had just scored the winning touchdown in the Super-Bowl! Jon’s smile is his way of telling the entire word — “Look at me! I’m a regular guy and I can ride a bike!”
Ana Gray attended one of our adapted bike camps held in Fond du Lac WI in August 2004. Ana is age 13, and is diagnosed with developmental delay. For her the task of riding a two-wheeler without those training wheels had been an impossibility. Years of tries ended in frustration and failure. Ana’s grandmother, upon hearing of our program in Fond du Lac, had Ana’s mother bring her from sixty miles away, as Ana lives in a suburb of Milwaukee WI. Ana proved to be a star pupil and bike rider, as she was riding a two-wheeler by the second day of the camp. Ana’s smile just grew as she was so pleased with herself at being a bike rider — just like the other kids!
Noot started on a roller trainer and graduated to a regular bike! Noot gives our volunteers a workout as he loves riding a bike — and he’s fast! Hopefully you will understand why we like our volunteers and staff to be physically fit. Our helper Jason running alongside Noot is a member of the Fond du Lac WI track team, and so he loves running. Our people don’t have to get up early to jog first, as they get all the jogging they want right on the job — and seeing smiles fill faces of excited kids. Noot’s mother (in green, to the right) admires Noot’s action and accomplishments, and is proudly standing ready to take a few photographs for the family album. Noot’s family is rooted in faith, and with their faith they see miracles on a regular basis.
We are delighted to introduce Noot who attended our program in Fond du Lac WI. Noot claims many distinctions in our hearts. He is optimistic and even inspirational. He is forever concerned about others and is at hand to offer advice and encouragement to each and all. Two things stand out in our memory
•Noot offered comfort to one girl who was experiencing considerable difficulty, “Amber, all things are possible if you try and continue to practice.”
•To yet another child, a girl diagnosed with autism, age 8, Noot told her, “Lauren, if you want to ride a bike, you must do four things — have faith, believe, look forward, and keep pedaling.”
Noot attended two of our camps, first in March 2004 and again in August 2004. In the mid-day of the second camp Noot rode a conventional two-wheeler bike by himself for the first time. Yes, we had to provide support for starting, but once underway Noot became an accomplished rider. As you browse the web site, we are sure that you’ll find Noot there on pages waiting to greet you. Our hats and our hearts go out to Noot!
When a child is able to master riding a bicycle – and without those dreaded training wheels — the benefits become instantly evident. The child smiles, and the child desires to get onto the bike to ride around. Self-esteem experiences perhaps an exhilarating lifetime high. Humiliation is vanquished. Some of the longer term benefits include peer inclusion, success at an age appropriate activity, improved exercise opportunities, increased stamina, increased cognitive stimulation and decision making, and even the ability for the family to participate in a fun activity as a family group.
We have only enjoyed anecdotal reports to date that children gain in improved health, fitness and well being. We anticipate in the future that clinical studies under proper rules of science and medicine will confirm our present hypothesis — that being able to ride a bike brings about increased physical fitness, better motor planning, better motor coordination, and improved health in general.
In the absence of scientific research to validate our gut feelings, we are able to rest well at night knowing that we have brought smiles to hundreds of children — children who are now able to ride bikes when heretofore the idea of riding a bike without training wheels had been only a fleeting dream.
Learning to Ride — A poem about Bike riding
Unconquerable, undefeated, and proud
The wheels turning,
People whizzing past my face,
I wanted to learn
I wanted to ride
But I just couldn’t
My pink bike with “balance wheels”
As I felt hurt down deep within
I tried and tried but fell
It was frustrating
But I got back up again and tried again and again
Finally, the pink bike – the “balance wheels” gone forever
I felt like a mighty king at the top of a mountain,
Who was now unconquerable, undefeated, and proud.
We strive to bring every child along to be able to become a bike rider, but we don’t achieve 100 percent success. The outcome is not anything that we can guarantee. We do guarantee to do our best in terms of providing the best equipment, staff, and attention to detail.
Learning to ride a bike involves learning a sequence of motor skills. Each child will improve in skills on his/her own timetable. Some children can learn in an hour, and yet others require more time.
In 2000 our CEO, Richard Klein, began travelling through the United States and Canada with a van full of bicycles. Here were some lessons that he learned about teaching kids to ride:
- A week’s duration of the program is commonly sufficient for many children
- Because of the need to be fresh and rested as well as other limitations, we find that children do best when we schedule a daily riding session not to exceed 1-½ hours (90 minutes).
- We found that an ideal duration for a session is 75 minutes, as we keep children active and 75 minutes is optimum
- Multiple 75 minute sessions per day allows the many children to ride and allows effective facility utilization .
- While children do progress through the same steps as they learn to ride, the time it takes them to move to the next step is highly variable.
- Watching the child, and not the clock, will reveal when they are ready for the next step.
The other lesson that Richard learned was that he could not meet the demand for bike camps alone.
Rainbow Trainers now focuses on enhancing and improving the trainers that help people learn to ride. iCan Shine (www.icanshine.org) schedules, staffs, and administers bike camps throughout the US and Canada.
The iCan Bike program, through the organization, iCanShine, partners with institutions in creating camps.
Visit iCanShine’s website for camp details: www.icanshine.org
Up to this point we have had camps in a number of places in the United States and Canada, primarily where local institutions have agreed to work with us. The institutions provide the gymnasium or similar facility, the means to recruit about 24 to possibly as many as 40 children, volunteers to serve as spotters, a bike camp director to serve as coordinator, a budget or means to generate funding to support the camp, and a qualified floor director. Once we agree on a date (a week, in general), we see to it that an array of adapted bikes arrives and someone properly trained is there to spearhead the camp.