Empowering Challenged Kids: iCan Bike Program

A week-long bike camp for challenged kids during the summer of 2016 was a collaboration between Easter Seals Nova Scotia and Autism Nova Scotia. What a wonderful initiative! Knowing how to ride a bike is an important skill that individuals can use all their lives.

Many communities have bike paths and even bike lanes on their roads. A child who can ride a bike can join friends in his neighborhood and many bike to school. Bicycle racks are cropping up everywhere to allow riders to shop, go to restaurants, visit family and friends, or go to work. For some challenged kids who will never be able to afford or drive a car, knowing how to ride a bike can be a great step to being more independent.

“Children with challenges overjoyed to learn how to ride a bicycle.”reads an article written about this iCan Bike Program which took place August 15-19, 2016. . The five day bike camp was designed to help children and youth with autism, Down Syndrome and other intellectual delays learn to ride a bike independently. “This camp empowers kids to be free, to grow their confidence, self-esteem, to be independent and be included,” said Henk van Leeuwen, president and CEO of Easter Seals Nova Scotia.

On the iCanShine web site  I learned the following: “We understand that the vast majority of people with disabilities never have the experience of independently riding a conventional two-wheel bicycle during their lifetime. Research shows that over 80% of people with Autism and 90% of people with Down syndrome never experience this thrill. Defying these odds is why we exist! Our mission is to provide unique learning opportunities in recreational activities for people with disabilities. Each person’s abilities are embraced and nurtured to foster an environment where everyone can shine!”

The Easter Seals Nova Scotia web site explains, “The iCan Bike program will be in Halifax to teach individuals with disabilities how to ride a conventional bike and become a lifelong independent rider! The program is for ages 8+ years, and individuals with disabilities with the ability to walk without an assistive device. Last year participants included children with Autism, Down syndrome, and intellectual delays. Cost for this program is $150.00 for the week which includes a 75-minute session each day of the 5-day camp. An adapted bike will be provided for the sessions. The camp will be held at the Lebrun Recreation Centre, 36 Holland Ave, Bedford.”

The August 20th edition of The Chronicle Herald had an article about this camp titled, “Easter Seals’ Bike Camp a Success” Parents explained that when you ask a child to process multiple things at once like balancing a bike, steering a bike, pedaling a bike, that sometimes it can be overwhelming. This course allows these kids to process one skill at a time.

Spotters run alongside each child as they grow their skills, and by the end of the week, there are smiles on the youngsters’ faces, and the spotters, too.

Parent Chris Hingley says his soon-to-be nine-year-old son Derek has been trying to learn to ride a bike for two years, with no success at all.

“This week (Derek) hasn’t had any crashes, I don’t think. It’s fantastic,” Hingley said. “It opens up a whole new world for him.

“He’s now going to have a lot of fun.”

The following testimonial shows how thankful parents are and how proud kids are at the end of  bike camp, “We have one proud boy today. This week showed me this program is so, so much more than just riding a bike. It’s a chance to just be a regular kid. I’ve never seen Morgan smile when riding a bike – when we started this week, he wasn’t even able to ride a bike WITH training wheels. He hasn’t stopped smiling all week and even said today how proud he was of himself. I will never be able to thank everyone involved for giving him that.”