Liam Stone looks like a natural as he steers his bicycle into the corner of the fieldhouse at Pearkes Recreation Centre for a pit stop.
But he wasn’t a natural last week, or even yesterday. In fact, Stone’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder meant he avoided learning how to ride a bike altogether until his mom found out about a special camp through Island Health.
“Liam’s otherwise been too impulsive to ride a bike, he just hasn’t had the patience and persistence to be able to learn at home,” said Rosanna Stone.
The five-day iCan Shine bike camp is put on for kids and teens aged five to 17 with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other disabilities affecting motor co-ordination.
This year, 28 people took part, many from the school-age therapy program at Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health in Saanich.
The children start with a cylindrical roller in place of the back wheel, which is then switched out with a series of tapered rollers as the child becomes accustomed to the trickier balancing act each requires.
Two volunteers serve as spotters for each rider.
“The mechanic brings the rollers closer together bit by bit, so that soon Liam will be able to balance the bike without them,” Rosanna said.
About 80 per cent of participants can ride a two-wheel bicycle independently by the end of the five-day program, said Sharon Stangeland, camp co-director and Island Health physiotherapist at Queen Alexandra.
“Our bodies have an inherent ability to maintain balance, and these bikes trigger this without the children even being aware,” Stangeland said.
As Stone heads out for another lap, he pushes his pace a little faster than before and they run beside him.
He doesn’t notice the stabilizing contraption behind his bike has been scaled down, and that he’s doing more of the balancing.
Stone’s older brother, 11-year-old Nicholas, benefited from iCan Shine camp two years ago.
He’s now on his second bike and rides almost daily. For Nicholas, it meant overcoming challenges by co-ordinating movements on both sides of his body simultaneously.
“It’s a confidence thing, being able to ride a bike,” Rosanna said. “And to have two volunteers spend time running around with you for all 75 minutes of the class, for five days a week, that’s nice for them to have.”
Children’s Health Foundation chipped in $28,000 to fund the camp for the past two years.