Lose the Training Wheels, and gain so much more

Soumaya, one of the lucky Lose the Training Wheels kiddosRead Crystal Ward’s biography.

Every kid wants to ride a bike, but kids with special needs have special challenges. For most children, riding a bike seems second nature. The child pushes the pedals with their feet and the bike moves forward. However, for some children with autism and other special needs, the thought of balancing, steering, and pedaling all at the same time can prevent them from giving cycling a try.

A unique program called Lose the Training Wheels offers children with autism, Down syndrome, mild cerebral palsy and other motor planning disabilities the chance to learn to ride a two wheel bike in an environment that is safe, accepting … and FUN! Earlier this month, Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region had the wonderful opportunity (thanks to a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois) to host the week-long Lose the Training Wheels program for our second summer in a row.

Lose the Training Wheels was designed by Dr. Richard Klein, retired mechanical engineering professor from the University of Illinois. He developed a series of bicycles that are fitted with special rollers and other adaptations that allow children with disabilities to gradually progress from a wide balance base to a conventional one without the dreaded training wheels.

Throughout the Lose the Training Wheels week, physical and occupational therapists, along with several eager volunteers, help each child progress through the adapted rollers. They teach them bike safety, balance, body coordination and provide additional security while the child learns by running along side them.

Parents watch anxiously from the sidelines waiting to see if their kid will be the next one “up” on two wheels. With nerves and anticipation they swap stories, resources, and encouragement. Cheers of “you can do it!” or “nice fall!” or “you got it, you got it” are heard throughout the gym, and each time, whether the child takes a tumble or just keeps on riding, there is a fan club encouraging them all the way.

This year, over 17 children with Autism, Asperger Syndrome, or PDD participated in the program and all but a few were able to successfully learn to ride a two-wheel bike. Soumaya, age 8, was one of our lucky kiddos who learned during the very first days of the program. Her mother, Zoubida, shared the reasons why it was so important that her daughter learn this skill. “Because Soumaya is a child with sensory dysfunction, learning to ride a bike will help give her body more sensory input, help her focus her attention, help her fit socially with other children on our block,” she said. “And it may serve as a means for transportation for her as she grows older.”

We know how important this program is to the children we serve at Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region. We hope to receive continued funding next year so that we can help more children have success stories … just like Soumaya’s!


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  2. Patricia Wright Says:

    As a life-long bike commuter I absolutely LOVE hearing about people learning to ride bikes. It is a wonderful transportation method not to mention a great recreation activity. Congratulations Soumaya! Way to GO!!!

  3. Machonne Says:

    Thanks for sharing yet another successful LTTW! I’m very proud of each and everyone who attends.

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