“I was determined to teach our son Evan to ride a bike when he was a youngster. Every summer we made some strides but ended up defeated. With his cognitive delays, the challenge for us was to break every step into smaller steps for him to learn along with all the motivators like new bikes, helmets, horns, and snacks-you get the picture. He mastered some skills very slowly, but frankly the process got to be overwhelming for both Evan and us. Most children with special challenges have to work so hard to acquire and master new skills on many levels. I was beginning to feel a failure as a parent. I kept thinking “bike riding is supposed to be FUN!” We don’t usually back down from most challenges, but we took a break….a long break.
Then a few years back as a pre-teen he almost “got it” on his two wheeler but he grew to the point where I struggled to keep up to him and after several falls each outing, we quit. Being the strong-willed child that he is, over the next few summers, whenever I said “bike ride?” with all the enthusiasm I could muster, he gave a resounding “No!” But like many special needs parents, we persevere, move on to other things, and come back.
I had heard about iCan Shine and applied a few times but too late for acceptance (special needs parents are not perfect either!). So this year we finally grabbed the opportunity to “do this!” Evan just turned 25 years old and completed the week-long bike camp today at Villanova. The entire experience was wonderful! The coordinators have expertise in the mechanics of biking that move the rider toward success at their own pace. They don’t mind explaining to parents and answering many questions. The buddies/volunteers were great motivators and yes, Evan had his favorite girl buddies! They were so patient with him and worked through his stubborn streaks. His poor speech skills did not deter them. And yes, he jumped off the bike once – no big deal to them. The coordinator found that perfect blend of music to serve as a motivator and not a distractor. Positive reinforcement with ample verbal praise was continuous during the entire week. And yes, he did learn to ride with very few prompts by the week’s end. I could see his confidence building and apprehension waning on our rides home from the sessions. And as always his smile says it all.
Most of all in the case of a young adult like Evan, my goal in all areas is to increase independence. I recalled the years of my own childhood in rural PA riding bike all over the place and the joy and feeling of freedom it brings. I know our son won’t drive a car but I feel his ability to ride a bike has given him that same sense of independence. The bike camp, staff, and their expertise provided the opportunity for our son that we could not have imagined. They took the “challenge” along side of us and that sense of teamwork toward a common goal was the support that our son needed to be successful. I love to hear him tell all his relatives what he can do “by myself” and now we can add bike riding! Increased independence builds confidence so I am certain that confidence building is right up their with his new bike riding skills. The bike camp staff were also a great encouragement to me to pull from the positives with Evan and keep on going!”