Every Child Needs a Bike!
Most American children experience bike riding in their early years. It seems to be a favorite physical activity. When our daughters started walking around the age of 1, we bought them small riding toys. It was so exciting to see them push themselves around the yard or in the house. Then they graduated to big wheels and tricycles, and the thrills continued. They spent countless moments experiencing the freedom of riding, the joy of going fast down a hill. Then came the small, more grown-up looking bikes with training wheels, and eventually the training wheels came off. Such great memories were made! The memory of our daughter Amber learning to ride her bike without training wheels will forever be etched in my memory. She was so ecstatic to be able to ride like her big sister Abby, and it was ambitious because she was only 3 years old.
Biking is such a great physical activity and a confidence booster. It helps with learning, balance and stability. It is therapeutic for people of all ranges and abilities. According to Friendship Circle, a special-needs resource, biking encompasses many benefits for children beyond just fun. It can help the body with bone growth, strengthening of anti-gravity muscles, development of hand/eye coordination and visual perception, and it can increase circulation and blood flow throughout the body. Movement, which can be harder for a child with a disability, can help improve cognition. A bike can help facilitate movement that a child might otherwise not be able to do. After all, movement is life.
In recent years, my husband and I started to ride bikes on the trail, and I have rediscovered my childhood love of bike riding. So naturally, we wanted our son Austin to experience a bike, too. We bought a carrier to bring him along on rides, and he does seem to love that. He loves movement and the fresh outdoor air. It has also been a great way to include him in some family adventures. But my dream to get him a bike of his own kept nagging at my heart. I knew he would not be able to ride a bike like a typical child, but nonetheless, he deserves the feeling of freedom and joy that riding provides. To me, it’s a childhood rite of passage, and I want my son to have as many of those experiences that he can. So I, the mother who loves to research, found a bike online that I knew would work for him. It is called the Freedom Concepts bike and it was the only bike I could find that has all the proper supports my son would need. The problem, however, was the cost.
The first bike we tried we had modified by a wonderful man named Walt. It was great bike, but just not enough support for Austin. I was very sad, but we were able to donate it to another child.
Then, when Austin was 6 ½ years old, he got the Sarah Jian Lopez Medicaid Waiver and we finally had funding to get his bike. It took many months, but it was so worth it. He rides with help, and the Freedom Concept bike gives him total support. But, oh the joy of his legs moving and being outside. It is both refreshing and therapeutic for him. His legs are learning to move more and on the bike to move in opposite succession. In my world, that can only help his body. And really, who cares about the therapy part? This boy is riding a bike and experiencing a little freedom that we all should be able to experience. Every child needs a bike. I am beyond thrilled that my son has finally been able to have that luxury. He totally deserves it, and the smile and happiness on his face are worth all the time and research getting him that bike took.
Again, every child needs a bike. I hope you get time to enjoy your bike now and then!
Jenny Wade lives in Columbia with her husband, three children and two dogs. She has a degree in Elementary Education. Jenny is an advocate for her son Austin who has a severe brain injury. Austin has taught her about navigating a new side of life.