Parenting

Special-needs parenting: Adapting activities for your child

Anchel experiences true community spirit in action at a work event last week.

2013-06-26 - Earn a Bike 001

Photo: Anchel Krishna

I’ve written before that I LOVE my new job. Now let me tell you why.

Picture dozens of kids between the ages of 9 and 13 receiving bikes. Imagine an additional four children with special needs receiving specially adapted bikes that allow them to ride independently, despite their physical challenges. Now imagine that all these kids earned these bikes by cleaning up their local communities. Families did not pay a single cent, including the families of the children with special needs. This is a huge deal since adapted bikes can be very expensive (we’re talking thousands of dollars) and aren’t often funded.

Thanks to the Tim Hortons Earn a Bike program and the volunteer efforts of the York Regional Police, four kids in the area are now spending their first week off school riding around their neighbourhoods and parks with their siblings, friends and neighbours.

Last week, I had the true honour of attending an event where all the kids that participated in the Earn a Bike program got to reap the rewards of their efforts. They were presented with a bike, lock, helmet and certificate from true heroes – the York Regional Police officers who volunteered their time to assist with the program and the local Tim Hortons restaurant owners (who also qualify as community heroes in my sleep-deprived, caffeine-fuelled world). It was so great to see.

All the kids that attended the event, and many of the parents, were so intrigued by the adaptive bikes. We had an opportunity to chat with many of them and explain how the adaptive bikes work, how they are fitted for each individual child for size and also to allow them to ride independently despite their physical challenges. Some of them are powered by arm movements, some have batteries and others have systems that allow more movement with less pedaling effort. Plus, they come in super cool colours.

The other thing that meant so much was that the community clean up days were truly inclusive events. The volunteer officers found ways for all the kids to participate, even if they were in wheelchairs or had other mobility challenges. And the kids that received adapted bikes were recommended for the program by their therapists.

Although we live in communities, I find that sometimes it can be a little isolating. We rely on cars to get almost everywhere and people often keep to themselves. But I really believe that community events like this provide a way for people to meet one another, start conversations and even walk away being a bit more inclusive than they were before. One of the families that received a bike even helped with transporting another family’s bike home since it wouldn’t fit in their car. Amazing.

As a kid I remember spending hours on my bike, riding around the neighbourhood with friends and the feeling of freedom that comes from being on a bike. With Syona’s physical challenges I often wonder how we are going to give her the opportunities to experience the parts of childhood that we often take for granted.

Programs like this help provide parents like us with options and ideas. More importantly they help build community spirit that will help us ensure that Syona’s childhood is filled with wonderful memories.

How do you adapt childhood activities for your child? Do you participate in a lot of community events?