Summer is here and kids and bicycles go hand in hand. Biking offers many health benefits, as well as provides an opportunity for fun physical activity that everyone can enjoy. With a little effort and creativity, children with special needs can feel comfortable joining in on bicycling with friends and family.
Adapted Bicycling for Children with Special Needs
There are bike/trike options that allow accessibility for children with special needs. Certain models of the AmTryke series allow for the option of a hand and foot pedal system when strength or motor planning issues may exclude the success of using a standard tricycle. The Zero Trike has extra trunk support for stability and features a push handlebar in the back with control of front wheel steering to allow external assistance from a parent or caregiver as needed.
No matter what the ride and whether indoors or out, crank up the cycling fun with these additions:
- Set up cones to create a guided path to navigate
- Add bean bags activities for purposeful activity. Pick up a bean bag from a target point at the beginning of the course, transport the beanbag (hold in hand, slide into a pant waistband etc.) and release on target at the end of the course. The Sportime Bean Bag Frogs can add even more zest to this motor planning activity!
- Work on following directions and motor control by practicing stop and go. Verbally direct the child and/or use spot markers to indicate the start/stop areas.
Adapted Bicycling Ideas for Families
Bicycling as a family event can be inclusive of generations, and all levels of needs and abilities. Some research suggests that children that bike to school are more alert and ready to learn. Whether you are biking just down the street, to school or park, or on a trail remember to keep in mind these tips
- Make sure you are comfortably dressed. In warm weather, lightweight fabrics that wick away moisture and sweat; in chilly weather, dress in layers. Remember that children with special needs may have higher intolerances to hot or cold temperatures.
- Pack the essentials: sunscreen, sunglasses and water! Children with special needs and/or those on certain medications can tolerate limited time in the sun and may dehydrate easily.
- Be sure to take frequent breaks for reasons above!
- Bring a smart phone in case of any emergency or just for snapping a few photos!
Adapted Bicycling for Educators & Therapists
The Pumper Car is a wonderful addition to any adapted/inclusive PE lesson plan or OT/PT treatment session. The unique pump action of the Car creates a healthy, vigorous activity that activates muscle groups other devices and cycles do not – working upper and lower body simultaneously while creating a smooth, fun ride! You can check out the Pumper Car in action here.
5 Health Benefits of Bicycling
The Health Letter from the Harvard School of Medicine lists 5 key benefits from cycling:
- It provides an aerobic workout. Pushing pedals is a super workout for heart and lungs and exercise can help release endorphins, the body’s feel good hormones that provide an analgesic effect.
- It builds muscle through the thigh and calf muscles.
- It’s kinder to joints. Walking and running can put excessive strain on the legs. Cycling reduces this pressure.
- It builds bone density. Biking is a resistance activity. As you push it pulls on the muscles which in turn pull on the bones which helps with bone density formation.
- It can have a carry- over effect for everyday activities that require coordination and balance.
And if you think adapted cycling is just for kids, think again! Check out this inspiring video from the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Recreation Program. Happy Biking!
Read More Special Needs Blogs
Looking for more ways to modify and adapt activities and skill building to fit the abilities of students with special needs? Check out the other blog content on our site to see information about the latest tools and solutions tips from OT’s and educators. Explore the site and get inspired to make this year a positive one for the children with special needs in your life.
Cecilia Cruse, MS, OTR/L has a BS degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Florida, and her Master’s degree in Education from Georgia State University. She is SIPT certified and has over 25 years’ experience in pediatrics with school-based services, acute care, and outpatient pediatric settings.
Read more posts by Cecilia Cruse–>