|Dead End Biker Gang: Tom, Davis, Steve, Derek|
My guys, Steve and Tom, just learned how to ride last summer - at the very end of summer. Their summer actually began with a weeklong special iCan Bike camp hosted by a local special rec association in early June. During those sessions I would watch the campers and their trained Bike Buddies work through their paces using the camp's specially-designed roller bikes and then advance to the non-roller bikes with the handles on the back. Training wheels were never part of the "curriculum." The goal was for each camper to ride a two wheel bicycle without training wheels by himself or herself by the end of the week.
The camp buddies - sometimes three to a camper - ran or at least walked fast alongside the biker-in-training in the big gym- all the while holding that back handle of the bikes. It was impressive to watch. By the end of the week, the campers and their steadiers must have gone about a million miles! My two campers did ALL of their miles inside the gym - they were the only two who didn't progress enough to "graduate" and ride on the outdoor track by week's end. I don't know if it was their Down syndrome that kept them in the exclusive just-in-the-gym group (they were the only two in that group and the only two at the camp with Down syndrome), but on that last day the staff offered solid advice to me. Have them practice every day on the bikes I had just purchased for them which followed the camp's recommendations - the top two being: 1) the wheel size should allow the rider to sit on the seat while having his feet flat on the ground and 2) the special steadying handle should be installed on the backs of their bikes.
So with the whole summer in front of us, the very next day after camp ended, out we went in our backyard with its gentle slope down to the flat open grassy area - perfect for getting the bike practice underway. Steve and Tom - on their camp-approved bikes wearing their camp-approved helmets, practiced every summer evening after supper, turn after turn one after the other (I think I ran and fast-walked about a zillion miles!). With those first practices being behind our house Derek and Davis could see what was going on from their backyard and in no time at all came over and joined in by cheering the grass-riders on. That was the ticket right there - that cheering on from friends. Really cool friends!!
Practices soon moved from the grassy backyard to the front sidewalk and then to the small section of street in front of our houses that goes a little ways before it deadends at the prairie. Derek and Davis always cheering them on and riding alongside on their bikes and even taking a turn at the handle-holding-steadying job. The Dead-End Biker Gang was born! More nights than I could count the sun would set and the glow would linger a bit and that Dead-End Biker Gang would still be riding and cheering and not wanting to quit. And guess what - both Steve and Tom, many sunsets after the Dead-End Biker Gang had ganged up and about a week before school was to begin last August, the boys with Down syndrome rode their bikes free and fast right into the last sunset of summer! It was really cool! Thanks to their really cool friends!