At about the same time last year (first week in June) on the local news was a story about a program sponsored by the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center that taught children how to ride a two wheel bicycle in four days. I thought that was pretty amazing in itself, but this program was for special needs children!
So, at the June 2008 EBC club meeting, I asked those in attendance if they were aware of such a program. Only Dan Armstrong knew of the existence of the venture and gave a brief recap. At that time I said that we, as a club, with our interest in advocacy, should become involved. There was agreement though the program was over for the year, and it was put on the back burner.
This May, I received an email from Dan reminding me that the “Lose the Training Wheels” program was again scheduled and would be presented from June 1‐5. That was all that was needed. The word got out, and four members worked their schedule around the requirements for the program: volunteer for the week for the same time slot (one hour and fifteen minutes) for the week. All EBC club members were able to assist for the afternoon sessions. Linda Clemmer assisted in the 1:00‐ 2:15 session while Amy Lutzel and myself were there from 2:30‐3:45. Ironman Dan Armstrong volunteered for BOTH afternoon sessions.
The Nuts and Bolts - How it Works
Lose the Training Wheels
- An international program with over 50 camps planned for the summer of 2009.
- All bikes used are included.
- Three experienced professionals are provided with one being a mechanic.
The Evansville “Team”
- Heidi, 9th year, mechanic, recent graduate of Olivet Nazarene
- Nikki, 2nd year, recent graduate of Wichita State University
- Brianne, 1st year, recent graduate of Missouri Baptist College
Bringing the program to Evansville comes at a cost of $10,000 and is for children from 6 to 20 years of age. The national success rate for children to ride independently on a two wheel bike by the end of the last session is 85%. More information is available at: http://www.losethetrainingwheels.org/
The Evansville Camp
- Location: Hebron School
- Sponsored by: Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center
- In Charge: Patty Balbach, Linda Dillon
Cost per student for the local camp is $150.00. It is a five‐day program with six students per class, five class sessions per day, one hour and fifteen minute classes.
Rollers replace the back wheel. There are five levels of rollers with the beginning roller at level 3, which is about as large at the outside as it is on the inside.Each level of roller has a smaller circumference at the outside. There is a special handle at the back of the bike to let the volunteer assist in stability when needed. As the student becomes comfortable at one level, a higher number roller replaces the previous one. Also, these bikes have high handle bars to encourage sitting up straighter and this promotes looking forward. Also, they do not have brakes. Otherwise they are considered normal “cruiser” bikes with traditional seats and sized wheels.
After mastering the “roller” bikes, the next progression is to a “real” bike which is a normal single speed “cruiser” bike that has both a coaster brake plus a rear hand brake. This bike also has the handle in the back.
The EBC team of Amy, Dan and Paul “adopted” Alexa “Lexi” Oser, and a chronicle of her progress through the week follows:
Lexi is 12 years old and is a resident of Ferdinand, IN. She was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 8. An attempt was made at age 10 to teach Lexi to ride a two wheeler, and, as her mother said, “She started out great, but then crashed and burned.” As you can see she is a beautiful young lady with a smile that never ends.
Lexi’s daily log:
Met with her EBC team. Began at level 3,progressed to level 5 by the end of the session. The students ride in an oval around the basketball boundary lines with an assistant in close proximity. The students change direction about every fifteen minutes.
Went from level 5 to level 7. Went outside and successfully rode a tandem with Heidi.
After 30 minutes riding at level 7, it was time to move to a two wheeler where Lexi rode up anddown the gym floor being assisted in starting and stopping. Then it was time to go outdoors to the parking lot where she rode a “normal” cruiser bike in a large oval rotation with an assistant (Amy and Lexi’s mother) running along side. We would go fifteen minutes one way and then fifteen the opposite way to learn turning in both directions. We also practiced stopping skills using the rear hand brake and starting from a stop (the most difficult skill.)
Even though the camp is scheduled to go through Friday, this was going to be Lexi’s last day since a family camping trip had been arranged long before the bicycle camp put on the schedule. While Lexi and Amy were practicing skills mom was receiving advice on how to adapt Lexi’s bike to meet the recommendations made by Heidi, the mechanic. Mom pretty well decided that it would probably be a good idea to purchase a new bike that was already set up correctly. And since Lexi was pretty tall, she would probably not need another bike later.
By the time this day of cycling was completed Lexi could, with confidence, start, stop, turn both ways and change speeds. Because Lexi would not be present the last day, she received her certificate of accomplishment plus she got to keep her helmet.
This was a day of final accomplishment with a closing ceremony that had each child in the program strutting their new skills in front of the visiting parents in attendance. Out of the 29 beginners from the first day, 25 were able to perform the basic skills of starting stopping and turning on their own two wheeler. The other four need minor assistance with one or more of the skills. All in all everyone associated with the program, (students, parents, staff and volunteers) felt much better for the experience.