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Children with health needs taught how to ride at inclusive bike club

By 21st September 2023No Comments

Young people with mobility and co-ordination difficulties from across Bristol have been learning to ride a bike with our therapists.

Our Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists run a bike group every year in the summer holidays for children and young people with a variety of conditions including motor and developmental co-ordination difficulties, mild cerebral palsy, and autism, who are unable to ride a bike.

The young people receive one-to-one support over five different sessions so they can learn the basic skills they need.

Kimberly Densley, mum of seven-year-old Joseph, who attended this year’s bike group, said: “Joseph is hypermobile and has co-ordination difficulties, so he’s always really struggled. Ever since the first session I’ve noticed he now has much more confidence and better stability. It’s given him the start he needs so I can continue this at home with him. His older brother cycles so it will be lovely to be able to go out on bike rides together.”

The bike group started more than 15 years ago and was held at schools, leisure centres and parks before moving to Bristol Cycling Centre, in Bamfield, which also allows children the use of their bikes.

Children and young people can attend the group if they are referred by our clinicians .

Lorraine McMullen, Sirona’s Associate Director for Children’s Services, said: “We are delighted to be able to run the bike group which is greatly valued by families in Bristol and a huge benefit to children and young people who would otherwise be unable to ride a bike.

Our therapists work alongside children and young people with a variety of mobility and coordination difficulties to help them reach their full potential.”

Our Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy services do not just provide assessments. Many of the children they see have complex and enduring physical difficulties who need support for many years. Some of the children who attend the bike group would not be able to ride a bike without this specialist help provided by clinicians.

Teresa Lee, mum to 10-year-old Harrison, who attended the group this year, said: “There aren’t any other clubs around here like this. Harrison really wants to ride a bike, but for Bikeability you’ve got to be able to ride before you can take part. This group teaches them from scratch, it’s so good and they are really patient with them.

“Harrison has a condition which affects his muscles and tendons, and he has very limited movement in his legs and hips. He really struggles, but he’s persevered which is excellent, and he’s been getting more confident. We’ve never seen him so happy.”

The group’s success rate for teaching children to ride a bike is very high and it also helps to improve their self-esteem and independence. Children who attend receive a certificate at the end of the course as well as new skills to put into practise at home.

Therese Millar, Specialist Physiotherapist, and Clare Haines, Specialist Occupational Therapist, who co-lead the bike group, said: “We would like to extend this bike service across all of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire and run it twice a year.

“There is nothing more pleasing than seeing a timid, unconfident, non-bike riding child cycling independently at the end of 5 days.”