Sudbury youth with disabilities learn to bike with help from iCan Bike program

The old expression, "just like riding a bike," is often used to describe something that's second nature and easy to do. But if you have a disability, riding a bike may not come naturally at all.

Participants attend five, 75-minute sessions that give them confidence, skills to ride independently

iCan Shine bike program volunteers help a participant learn how to bike during a program held in Sudbury in July of 2017. (Wendy Bird/CBC)

The old expression, "just like riding a bike," is often used to describe something that's second nature and should be easy to do.

But if you have a disability, riding a bike may not come naturally at all.

And for some, learning the skill may require some help.

The Sudbury hospital's Children's Treatment Centre has brought the iCan Shine program back to the city for a second time — in just as many years — with the aim of giving individuals with disabilities the chance to learn how to ride a bike in a fun and easy way.

Nicole Graham, a physiotherapist with the Children's Treatment Centre at the Sudbury hospital says watching youth with disabilities learn to ride a bike for the first time is "magical." (Frederic Projean/Radio-Canada)

Many benefits with learning to ride

Nicole Graham, a physiotherapist with the Children's Treatment Centre, says the coaches make the learning part fun and easy for participants using specialized equipment.

"I think biking and children is an important physical activity — not only from a physical point of view, but to have a recreational activity they can do with their friends and family," she said.

"Kids with cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome or kids who have balance and co-ordination difficulty that never learned to ride a bike are missing out on this great activity that they can do to improve socialization, self esteem and confidence."

Graham says children attend five, 75-minute, sessions throughout the week at St. Charles College in Sudbury.

Some of the bikes used in the iCan Shine bike program have modifications to make it easier for individuals to learn how to ride a two-wheel bicycle. (Frederic Projean/Radio-Canada)

The  iCan Shine program offers specialized equipment for the youngsters to use. This is the only program of its kind being offered in northern Ontario.

"This year we have 28 riders registered in the program," she continued.

"And we have 60 volunteers helping us out because, as you can imagine, we need two volunteers for each rider. To help run beside each rider to provide that encouragement and the assistance that they need to learn."

Graham says the hospital is able to put on the program with the help of a $10,000 grant from Good Life Kids Foundation.

Angela MacIntyre's 10-year-old son Liam is learning how to bike in the iCan Shine program in Sudbury. This is the second year they are involved. (Wendy Bird/CBC)

A family affair

It's a program that's very much appreciated by Angela MacIntyre. Her 10-year-old son is back for a second year with the program.

She said he's now getting the hang of riding on his own.

"He has two brothers. And when we go out for short little bike rides, he's glad he can be out there with them and doing what they're doing," MacIntyre said.

Liam has sotos syndrome, which affects the overall development and muscle tone in his body, she said.

"We are grateful for this program ... it's a tremendous opportunity for Liam."


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