Partnership gets wheels turning for children

Thanks to a partnership between children's therapists and the Watchtree Wheelers a number of children from north Cumbria with additional physical needs have learned to ride a bike.

This activity is something thousands of children up and down the country learn to do relatively easily. But for some children, some with conditions such as cerebral palsy or coordination problems, riding a bike is something they need extra support for in order to achieve or to experience.

The feedback from the course has been very positive.

Mum Helen Mullinder, whose son took part in the scheme, said:

“This course has been fantastic for him. Before he started he couldn't peddle independently and when he was on a trike we would push or pull him along. Learning to ride a bike has made physiotherapy fun, without him even realising he's having it. It's forcing him to be completely symmetrical, hold the handles and use his legs and core strength. These aren't easy things for him to do, but he loves being on a bike and now he can ride along with his older sister, who's able-bodied.

“I'd love for him to be able to do this again. It's giving him the same opportunity as other children, even though it's really hard for him, but to have had that 1-to-1 physiotherapy and people from Watchtree advising and trying him on different bikes has been brilliant. He thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and was so excited to attend each session from start to finish. He just smiled the whole time!”

Laura Miller, a Paediatric Occupational Therapist for Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We managed to get some funding through our charitable fund and this enabled us to provide an 8 week learn to cycle course through the summer holidays for a number of children on our caseload.

“The course gave the children confidence and a sense of inclusion. For some of the children balance and coordination is very difficult and the one to one training the Watchtree staff could give with our support was vital. We have seen a real difference in the children, being able to do something that they see their peers do is incredibly important.”

Ryan Dobson, Project Officer for the Watchtree Wheelers, said: “We teach people to ride bikes on a daily basis and have been doing for a few years now, however this is the first time we have done it in a structured session program and it has been a great pilot for things to come.

“We are really pleased with how the sessions have worked, although the group have a wide variety of different individual needs they were able to work together with an instructor to reach the training objectives. This promotes good social development of children as well as introducing them to cycling.

“A special thank you must go to our British Cycling Coach, Ian Ludlum, who volunteered his time to run the sessions.”

The course was for children aged 5 to 11 years old and of the 8 children who took part three can now ride a two wheeled bike confidently. The other five have grown in confidence and will continue to practice with the help of the paediatric therapists.

The children were all provided with certificates on Wednesday 27th August.