MacCartney’s story as told by his mother, Lyndsay:
“For a child with special needs there is no such thing as a ’small’ achievement. My name is Lyndsay and I’m the mother of a truly amazing, wonderful and exceptional 8-year old boy named MacCartney. MacCartney has High Functioning Autism and while it creates challenges in his life, it also is a part of what makes him the unbelievably wonderful, compassionate and genuine person that he is. Some of his challenges include, social and communication difficulty, sensory issues, anxiety and both fine and gross motor issues.
In order to truly understand this story, we have to go back to last summer. It was a beautiful sunny day… the perfect day for a bike ride. After much encouraging and pushing I had finally convinced MacCartney to go for a ride around the block, with the understanding that if he made it all the way, he would get a new Hot Wheels car. All the way outside he sighed, talking, sometimes to me, sometimes to himself, about how hard this was going to be. I continued to reassure him that the more he tried, the easier it would get, but in truth, it was the promise of a car that he would get that really got him on the bike. For most kids, going for a bike ride is a wonderful treat… something fun and exciting. For MacCartney, it was work… hard word.
I took out his bike. It was a Toy Story two-wheeler with training wheels on the back. I had hoped that having a Toy Story bike might help to make it more exciting, but it never really helped. MacCartney got on, continuing to tell himself how difficult this would be, then repeatedly asked me about the Hot Wheels car, to reassure himself that this hard work would pay off. As soon as he started to pedal I could see the frustration on his face. His legs would push so hard, feet slipping off the pedals constantly. I walked next to him slowly, as he worked his way along. He would put his whole body into it, push, push, push, slip… deep breath and more encouragement from me; push, push, slip, another deep breath and more encouragement.
All the way around the block, people would pass us. Most of them would smile, some would give strange or even rude looks; thankfully MacCartney never noticed. That one ride around the block would take an hour and a half to complete. When we got home, MacCartney was exhausted, happy it was over and that he had a new toy car. If you had told me then that next summer my son would be riding a two-wheeler, without training wheels, I would have had some serious doubts.
In January we went for our regular check up with Dr. Weaver at Erinoakkids. We were discussing his progress and when we got to the physical development I mentioned the bicycling. It was then that she told me about the iCan Bike program. She explained that this summer iCan Shine and Erinoakkids would be working together to have an iCan Bike program for one week where children with various special needs would learn to ride a two-wheel bicycle. I was so excited thinking ’if they could just get him to have an easier time with the motion of riding a bicycle, I would be thrilled’.
About a month later we were at the community centre for Family Day when MacCartney got up onto one of the exercise bikes and started to pedal. I couldn’t believe it. He was starting to get the motion. His feet still slipped off and he was still pushing really hard, but it was far more fluid than ever before. I began to have even more hope for the iCan Bike Program.
Finally summer arrived and the program began. For months I had been preparing MacCartney for the program and I could tell he was anxious about the whole thing. When he arrived on the first day he met the program coordinators and the kids in his group. I was so happy to see that he was starting to get just a little excited. After getting him ready they introduced him to his volunteers, Russ and Michelle. They were both amazing. MacCartney got on one of the roller bikes and began to make his way around the rink. I was so amazed to see how well he was doing. His motion was getting more and more fluid with every lap and just as importantly he was having a wonderful time. When he did take a break, it was to grab a sip of his drink and a hug and then he’d be right back out on his bike.
On day two, he didn’t even want to sit and wait so he danced in the hall waiting for his volunteers. From then on he was always the first one out on the bikes. I had never seen him so excited about a program in his life. That day he went on the tandem bike. He was so thrilled. I watched as he raced around that rink and the freedom he felt. Everyday his cycling was improving by leaps and bounds and more than that, his confidence and joy were overwhelming.
On day three, I couldn’t believe how amazing the progress was, not just for MacCartney, but ALL the children there. So many amazing kids with so many different challenges and special needs and every day I watched each of them make HUGE advancements. So when one girl made it onto two wheels, we all cheered. She had been riding along well for a while when suddenly she fell. Everyone stopped; every parent and every child watching, but slowly she got back up and onto her bike. The cheer that went up from everyone in that room was HUGE. She was a hero. She had shown every child in that room that you sometimes fall, but you get back up and you try again.
Shortly after that, during one of Mac’s quick breaks he told me, ’They have a surprise for me when I go back.’ I could feel my stomach flip. I went back to my seat and told my parents. Sure enough a few seconds later they came out with another two wheel bicycle with a handle on the back. I started videotaping and I watched as for the first time my child rode on two wheels. I was shaking and crying as I watched the joy and confidence on MacCartney’s face as he rode the length of the rink. We then headed outside (MacCartney would like me to mention here that he was the first one to make it outside). I watched him as he rode around the parking lot, over and over. This child who I had to bribe the year before, who took an hour and a half just to go around the block was now flying around the parking lot and didn’t want to stop to even take a break.
On Thursday he made it onto his own bike, no handle, and I saw for the first time as he went around all by himself without anyone running next to him. His joy was overwhelming and it made my own joy just that much more incredible. And what helped so much was being surrounded by people and parents who really understood. We cried and cheered and celebrated for every child there. We celebrated and encouraged and everyone there ‘got it’.
By Friday, the last day, he was even starting and stopping on his own and every child in that group had made it onto two wheels. I cannot describe the joy of watching every single one of them make their way around that parking lot, all at their own pace, each one having overcome so much to get to that point. It was such a beautiful sight.
Now, just a week and a half after finishing the program, my child has gone from training wheels, to two wheels, from parking lots to sidewalks. He asks to ride his bike every day, because he WANTS to. He is developing strength in his muscles, improving his balance, lessening his anxiety while increasing his confidence and taking on new freedom and independence that he never had before.
I don’t think I will ever have the words to truly thank Lisa and iCan Bike and Erinoakkids, not to mention the amazing volunteers and Dr. Weaver who made me aware of this program. What you have given my child, and in turn me, is a gift that will last his entire life. Thank you.”
A note from iCan Shine:
By the way MacCartney won the “Branching Out~Pride and Joy Award” through Erinoakkids. This is a cool video about him. He is something of a superstar and we can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next.
SHINE YOUR LIGHT MAC!
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