Bicycle or tricycle riding is an important component of childhood. For certain children with medical complexities, there are special equipment that enable them to explore the world just like any other child.
When I was working as a physical therapist on the pediatric floor of a rehabilitation hospital, I encountered many children and families impacted by debilitating conditions and circumstances. From cerebral palsy and brain injury, to spinal injury, or cancer, many of the children I met proved that being physically and cognitively limited did not keep them from participating in stimulating play activities.
Adaptive tricycles are designed to provide less able-bodied children a way to exercise their limbs, practice their skills and encourage their participation.
They often come with various features and accessories such as extra wide frames, trunk reinforcement, head support, leg straps, hand straps, steering assist, etc. They make it possible for children who have low muscle tone, motor control, coordination, or cognitive function to engage in locomotion.
How Can an Adaptive Bicycle Help?
For children with diagnoses that reduce their trunk control, adaptive bikes provide a safe environment where they can work on coordinating their limbs while having their back fully supported or strapped in. For children who fatigue easily due to their medical conditions, adaptive bikes offer the option of having an adult help steer from behind. For children who lack the motor control to alternately pedal their legs, foot straps and connected pedals make the reciprocal motion easier by putting muscles and joints through those much needed ranges. Depending on the type of bike, adaptive handles can also accommodate all kinds of grip. So when a child with upper body weakness has a hard time grasping or holding the handlebars to steer a regular bike, an adaptive bike allows them more control of their locomotion.
Durable wheels and a parking brake make adaptive bikes safe for children with a wide range of physical abilities and conditions. Children with medical complexities who are restricted to a wheelchair can still benefit from rides in an adaptive bike. Aerobic training and upright posture, as well as limb movements (facilitated or self-initiated), are an essential part of the growth and rehabilitation process for children of all different capabilities. All of this is made easy by special equipment such as the adaptive bike. Being outside and being able to participate in activities with other children promote emotional health and create positive environments for mental and physical growth.
The Rewards of Using Adaptive Bicycles
I have watched many children blossom behind the wheel of an adaptive bicycle. Taking part in that transition is such a rewarding process. Children who were unable to move certain parts of their bodies after an injury were eventually able to transfer what they learned during cycling to standing and walking tasks. Toddlers who were never able to stand on their own were able to experience, for the first time, limb movements and self-propulsion locomotion. Seeing the smiles on their faces, and hearing the laughter of their parents and siblings… Those moments definitely made my job worthwhile.