Helping children with special needs ‘lose the training wheels’
You could tell by their faces how much they enjoyed the experience – and we did, too.
It’s as easy as riding a bike. It’s an old expression, but one that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. For children with disabilities, riding a bicycle could be anything but easy. The idea of weaving and wobbling on two wheels across a hard surface can be pretty scary. Volunteers from Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC’s) refinery in Catlettsburg, Ky., joined forces with a non-profit organization to help some area children embrace this recreational activity.
“Refinery employees took part in the annual iCan Bike Camp presented by iCan Shine, a non-profit organization that provides a variety of programs aimed at enhancing the lives of people with disabilities,” notes Sheila Fraley, MPC community relations representative. “iCan Bike Camps are held throughout the nation, each with the goal to teach children who, out of fear or lack of confidence, might otherwise never learn to ride a bike.” iCan Shine collaborates with local organizations and individuals to conduct over 100 five-day iCan Bike programs in 32 states and four provinces in Canada, serving nearly 3,000 people with disabilities each year.
The camp was hosted for the third consecutive year by the Marshall University School of Kinesiology in Huntington, W.Va. Over the course of the week-long event, held in the gymnasium of nearby Huntington High School, refinery employees joined other volunteers and Marshall health professionals in teaching participants to lose the training wheels.
“The program features modified bikes. The back wheel utilizes a system of rollers, with the first being almost flat,” explains Fraley. “As the child gains confidence and balance, the back roller is replaced with a slightly rounder one, and so on. By the end of the camp, most children are riding a regular, two-wheel bike.”
Research shows that the majority of children with special needs will not learn to ride a bike independently without specialized instruction, according to Dr. Gregg Twietmeyer, a professor at the Marshall University School of Kinesiology.
“The majority of the camp participants were riding on their own by the end of the week,” says Fraley. “You could tell by their faces how much they enjoyed the experience – and we did, too.”
For information on iCan Shine and its programs, please visit http://icanshine.org/.