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Bike camp teaches local children with disabilities how to ride

Observer-Dispatch - 8/10/2019

Prospect woman Michele Hoover and her 11-year-old daughter Sarah may soon be riding bikes together.

Sarah, who has Down syndrome, spent the week learning to ride at a bicycle camp for 17 people on the autism spectrum, with Down syndrome or with other disabilities.

The camp was put on through a partnership between the nonprofit iCan Shine and the Kelberman Center at Accelerate Sports in Whitesboro. Usually about 80 percent of participants learn to ride a two-wheel bike independently, according to iCan Shine.

Sarah could already ride a bike with training wheels, her mother said.

"But as she's gotten bigger, we've decided it's time to ride a bike like the other kids on the block," she said.

And Michele Hoover said she's hoping the two can ride together without the training wheels, which moved too slowly to let Michele keep pace with her daughter.

The program helps people who might have problems riding a bicycle because of fear, balance or other issues to gain skills and confidence during five, 75-minute sessions. Participants progress from bikes in stationary frames to bikes with rollers instead of back tires and handles to help volunteers steady them and then to regular bicycles.

Learning to ride a bicycle can be about a lot more than riding a bicycle, said Kelly Barns, a bike technician with the program. It teaches physical skills such as learning to balance, using the hands and feet, and looking where you're going, while it also pumps up overall confidence, Barns said.

One mother told her that the day after her child rode a bike for the first time, the child went swimming without a life vest for the first time -- something she'd always been too afraid to try, Barns said.

"We're not just creating someone to be successful on a bike," Barns said. "We're creating someone to be successful in life."

Ryan Tallman, 18, of Cazenovia, described both the camp and his progress as good. His mother Danette did acknowledge that, as of the second to last day of camp on Thursday, he was finding the turns a little harder than the straightaways as he pedaled around the gym.

Her son has tried several bikes over the years, but nothing has really worked out for riding in the country where they live, his mother said.

"It's very exciting because it's giving him independence," she said.

Too often, kids with disabilities don't get the same opportunities as other kids, said Ryan Tallman's father, Ron. That's why programs like iCan Shine are great, he said.

Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).

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(c)2019 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.

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