Traditional cycling is of course a very popular past time, but unfortunately hasn’t always been accessible to everyone.
Children with physical disabilities or limited cognitive development can really struggle with riding a traditional bicycle. There’s a lot to think about at the same time – steering, balancing, turning pedals and changing gears even.
For some children unfortunately the multi-tasking has just proven too much of a challenge, however this doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the fun of riding a bike.
Our previous post earlier this year after the Special Olympics Exhibition Race highlights this perfectly.
Less risk of injury and loads more fun with Balance Bikes for disabled children ...
Balance bikes are much easier to learn to ride for any child, and they are the ideal bikes for children with disabilities or special needs.
Because a balance bike can be ridden with limited movement, and without the need for pedals, they are easier to get to grips with.
Firstly, there are less mechanics to get tangled up in, and secondly they are really light to move around. There’s much less risk of injury and much more chance of fun!
Of course children can still fall off a balance bike, so should always wear a helmet. But because the balance bikes are much lighter, they don’t hurt so much if the child topples over with the bike falling on them.
Balance bikes and physiotherapy ...
Physiotherapists have been using balance bikes for disabled children to help them build up their strength in a fun and rewarding way for some time now.
In the past, children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) such as Dyspraxia or Down's Syndrome would have been encouraged to use trikes to get some physical activity and to improve their co-ordination.
But the pedalling is hard work and the trikes were heavy, and there wasn’t much opportunity to strengthen core muscles and improve balance. Trikes also take up a lot of room so were generally used outside.
So balance bikes are also known as walking bikes, because they can be used at a walking pace first until children get used to being on the bike they are an ideal tool for getting any child more active and improving their confidence.
Using a balance bike, even just walking along on it, will help children build up strength and also co-ordination.
In group activities where children are practicing using the balance bikes, it’s common to practise indoors in a school hall or sports hall, and lay out a course with some cones to get the children used to the idea of steering and directing the bike too in a safe environment.
Step by step ...
The next step when they’re feeling familiar with the bike and the rhythm is to start running along with the bike. With the help of an adult, children can get used to putting their weight on the seat and taking their legs off the floor too, then by trying to move the balance bike along, on their own at a slow speed.
Once they’ve felt the thrill of riding along unaided with their feet off the floor, there will be no stopping them!