Spring is in the air and with it, comes thoughts of summer. Parents know they have to plan well in advance to get their kids the best camps to meet their needs. A wonderful program that teaches kids with disabilities to ride a bicycle is iCan Shine. Formerly called Lose The Training Wheels, iCan Shine partners with local organizations and individuals to conduct over 90 iCan Bike programs in 32 states and 2 Canadian provinces, reaching 2,500 kids with various disabilities, including autism.
About eighty percent of the participants are able to ride a two-wheeler independently by the end of the 5 day course. The remaining kids reach their highest level of ability and are poised to keep progressing after the program ends. iCan Shine expects to add 300 more programs in the next five years, and expand its offering to include other activities such an iCan Swim starting in 2014.
Last year, my then-sixteen-year-old, multiply-disabled son decided he finally wanted to learn how to ride a bike. I was daunted because he was physically larger than me at that point and I had no clue how to be his teacher. I signed him up for iCan Bike and it just a super experience. He was the oldest kid in the program, but didn’t care.
Each participant is assigned two spotters to be their personal coaches and helpers. Instead of the usual training wheels, each bike was fitted with heavy rollers than look like rolling pins. These stabilize the bike and give the rider the actual feel of the road. Over the five days the pins get progressively thinner until they are removed altogether on the last day.
Along the way, the kids also ride bicycles built for two with their spotters. On the final day, the children "launch." What a joyous and heartwarming experience it is to witness once awkward children confidently riding their bicycles independently! And the more severely disabled children are equally-thrilled with their new level of confidence and ability.
My son rides his bike every day now, reveling in the fact that he has his own means of transportation. It’s been just great for his self confidence and physical health.
I cannot recommend this program more highly. The people who run it are super- well organized and devoted to their cause. Their volunteer spotters are awesome and their scholarships are very generous.
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