“I wanted to write to thank you and your team for all of your hard work and dedication during last summer’s iCan Bike camp here in Orlando. You taught Ben how to ride a bike – and in one week even – but you gave him much more than the ability to peddle and stay up on a two-wheeler. You gave him the chance to understand what he is capable of. You gave him the freedom to dream, and not be held back by his fears and worries.
Ben not only has autism, and the low muscle tone and coordination issues that come with that condition, but he also has an extreme sensitivity to certain sounds. Sounds like clapping, cheering, and yelling put him into a “fight or flight” response almost immediately, and so he spends his life watching and waiting for those sounds to pop up. It is a life filled with anxiety and worry, and so he often can’t go places or do things where there is even a small group of people because he is so afraid of what sounds might happen.
The first day of bike camp was fun and exciting for Ben, but also very anxiety producing. He was so worried that camp would start with cheering or yelling, and I had to really work to keep him in the big open riding space. Luckily for us, the session started in a very low-key way, and he was up on his roller bike quickly. He rode by me, smiling and looking so proud, and I could see the excitement in his face as he did something that, just the day before, he could not do.
He did not mind the occasional cheering or yelling at all – I don’t think he even noticed it! He was too busy having fun and being challenged to ride faster and peddle harder. At the end of that first session, he hated to leave (a complete change from the kid that did not want to even stay in the room that morning!), and he spent the rest of the week eager to get to bike camp and keep riding.
On the third day when the iCan Bike staff had said kids might start to ride regular two-wheeled bikes, I knew that Ben would not be ready for that transition, and that was ok. He was learning and having fun, and I hoped that he would one day have the skill and strength to accomplish that goal. Well, I was wrong! I clearly did not have enough faith in iCan Bike or in Ben, because 15 minutes into that session, he rode by me on a regular two-wheeled bike! I started to cry almost instantly, as the enormity of what he was doing hit me. He was in a big room, with lots of people, and there was cheering and clapping, and he was not afraid and not running away at all! In fact, he was thriving! And now, he was actually riding a bicycle by himself! This program and Ben had accomplished something in 3 days that we had not been able to do for 5 years!
That day, after the session was over, Ben and I just walked around and talked about how excited we both were, and about how proud I was of him. I asked him how it felt to ride that bike, and I thought he would talk about going fast or feeling free. Instead, he looked at me, and said, “It made me feel like I could do anything.”
He has continued to ride since that week of camp. Our neighbors were completely amazed at how well he was riding, and how confident he was. Even they could see that the experience had changed him, and those changes reverberate to this day. When it comes to sounds and situations he continues to be a bit braver than before bike camp. He continues to do things even when they are scary. He has held on to that belief that he can do anything.
So thank you iCan Bike, for teaching Ben how to ride a bike. Thank you for giving him a chance to face some of his fears in such a supportive and caring environment. Most of all, thank you for letting him accomplish what seemed impossible. We look at the pictures from that week of bike camp often. They are such a great reminder of that amazing, life-changing week.
Later today, we will go out after school and ride bikes together. We will talk about things, or just be quiet together and feel the wind in our faces. And both he and I will be reminded -again- that we really can do anything. We just have to show up and keep peddling.
Thanks again so much!”