“My daughter Anna participated in an iCan Shine Bike camp in Evansville, Indiana last week. It was the most tremendous, wonderful experience ever! I wanted to thank you so much for making this opportunity available to her. Because of your years of extensive work and research on bicycle dynamics, and your vision, initiative and passion to develop the iCan Shine Bike Camps, you have made an incredible difference in the lives of young people and their families. You have given a gift of invaluable worth to these children with special needs. Through the bike camp, they have been able to accomplish a most liberating and wonderful feat…to ride a bike. I’m sure that through the years with the iCan Bike program, you have heard countless parents and kids express their gratitude. However, I don’t know if you can truly understand the “magnitude” of what you’ve given.
As a parent, it is heart wrenching to see your child, constantly on the “outside of the norm” doing “atypical behaviors” and often seeming “not to fit”. You are desperate to somehow “fix it” and make it all better. With Anna, our journey to “fix it” began about 5 years ago when she was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Her diagnosis was devastating to us. It was also so surprising. Her development up until she was about 2 ½ seemed completely normally. We have videos of her at a young age, totally focused and engaged, at times singing songs, responding to request, laughing, mimicking, etc. It was after she turned two, that I started noticing a difference in her and the other children in the church nursery. A few months later, she started “umming” and flapping her hands. More and more characteristics of autism followed. For some time, it seemed as though she was completely in another world. We would have to say her name repeatedly to get her attention. We wondered, “What had happened to our precious little girl?” “Where had she gone?”
Anna has been in multiple therapies since that time. We’ve tried the gluten free diet, ABA therapy, floor time therapy, horse therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, sound therapy, and more. She has made progress through the years. Her focus and ability to follow directions has definitely improved. She no longer has melt downs in crowds or in unfamiliar places. She makes her requests known to us with simple phrases and sentences, makes choices, and connects with us on a very real way. Anna is a very affectionate, easy going child now. She is usually very happy and loved by all who meet her. She is cute, funny, and adorable. She is a definitely a gift from God, just as she is. However, we want her whole and “free”. We want her to experience all the joys in this life and develop to her fullest potential. We continually pray for God’s wisdom on this journey, and our truly blessed as he leads us.
A few months ago, my husband saw a publication about the iCan Shine Bike camp and enrolled Anna. We couldn’t have imagined at that time what a liberating and therapeutic experience it would be for all of us. To see her intense focus and effort and her face “beam with pride”, was such a joy. On the tandem bike she smiled and moved her legs in motion; it was like her spirit was “flying”. I agree with you, riding a bike is a “spiritual experience”. After each day’s session Anna seemed so much more alert and “present”. She watched the video clips we posted on Facebook and looked at the newspaper clipping with her photo on the front page (see link above). Our friends and family would complement her on her participation and effort on “riding a bike” all week. She didn’t say much, but you could see it in her eyes. She was proud and she was happy.
Anna had had very little experience with tricycles and bicycles. We, along with her occupational therapist at school and at the rehab center have tried for years to get her to ride. She would pedal a few times and then have to be encouraged and prodded continually just to move the vehicle a few feet. She didn’t seem particularly interested in going anywhere and would lose focus in the painstaking process. Maybe she wanted her body to move the bike, it just wouldn’t cooperate.
However, last week, even on the first day, we saw a different Anna. She moved the adaptive bike around and around the gymnasium smiling and rocking to the music as she went. There was some difficulty with keeping her feet on the pedals, at first. But after trying sticky tape on the pedals, an ankle weight on her left leg, and lots of encouragement from her coaches, she was able to keep her feet on. By the third day, she rode the entire 75 minutes without a break. When it was time to go, we walked toward the exit. She became upset and said, “Purple… want purple..” We didn’t know exactly what she wanted, so my husband and I followed her across the large gymnasium. I thought she was going to the vending machine and was wanting a snack. She led us right back to the bikes. She grabbed a hold of the purple bike and tried to get on herself. She was very upset, when we told her that her time was up for the day and she couldn’t ride any longer. It was the same for the next two days! She loved it and rode the entire time!
Once again, thank you for all you do to make such an impact on the lives of children. God Bless You!”