To Volunteer: Volunteers are needed as spotters, two per child, and to sign in students and make sure riders have access to water. Sign up online by filling out the volunteer application form on the Rockdale County Autism Support Group website www.rockdaleautism.org
CONYERS - Learning how to ride a bike is one of the most normal childhood things to accomplish.
But for children on the Autism spectrum or with challenges such as Down’s Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, learning how to ride a bike can be more difficult.
That’s where the iCan Bike Camp comes in. The camp, offered last year in Conyers, is returning July 6 through 10, and will be held at Rockdale County High School at 1174 Bulldog Circle. Over the five daily 75-minute sessions, most campers will move from riding special bikes equipped with rollers instead of back wheels, to bikes attached to handles held by volunteer spotters, to two-wheel bikes, just like other children ride. For those who need more practice, instructors and volunteers work with parents to help them learn the techniques needed to help their child make the transition to a two-wheeler.
Last year’s camp was such a success, 21 of the 26 campers left being able ride a two-wheel bike, an achievement, Esther Maclin, organizer of the event, says builds confidence and hope in those with disabilities.
Maclin knows firsthand the impact of the iCan Bike Camp on a child. Her son, Jaylan, has Asperger’s and “thinks differently,” she said. Like many with the syndrome, he tends to concentrate on one thing at a time. That can be problematic when riding a bike, she said, which requires coordination and multi-tasking. “Getting on a bike means you have to focus on pedaling, balancing, braking and coasting at the same time.”
Now 14 years old, Jaylan attended the iCanBike Camp in Alpharetta two years ago.
“It’s a self esteem booster,” she said. “They aren’t on the outside looking in. They have something in common with other kids their age and they’re able to say they can [ride a bike], too.
“Most children want to learn how to ride a bike, and I just don’t think that there’s much difference between a typical child and a child with disabilities or special needs,” she said. “We all want to fit in, and we all want to do the things other people do. Kids just want to ride a bike. It helps them be more physically active, to get outdoors, to feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Though hosted by The Rockdale County Autism Support Group, the iCan Bike Camp is open to all children 8 and older, who meet the enrollment criteria. Campers must be at least 8 years old and have a disability, walk without an assistive device, be willing and able to wear a helmet, be able to sidestep on both sides, weigh less than 220 pounds, have a minimum inseam of 20-inches, and be able to attend camp all 5 days.
While the camp is promoted to children, Maclin said teens as old as 19 took part in the program last year. “There’s not a cap on age. If there’s someone in their 20s [with disabilities] who wants to attend, that’s fine as long as they meet the requirements.”
Campers need to provide their own bikes. They need to be “regular two wheeler, nothing fancy,” Maclin said. “We ask that it not be a trick or mountain bike. There shouldn’t be gears. no gears, either. A hand brake is also required. If they don’t have one, C-Town Bikes at 1927 GA 138 in Conyers, has partnered with us again and will install a hand brake on those bikes without.”
Three instructors and a bike technician from iCan Shine will lead the camp. Not only do they train the volunteers the day before the camp starts, they spend each session noting what issues each child is having and create an individual plan to address those needs.
There are five daily sessions, which accommodate up to eight campers each. The cost is $150 and can be paid by cash, check, money order, or PayPal. You can download the registration form online, visit www.icanshine.org/conyers-ga or register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 770-633-5007.
Volunteers are needed as spotters, two per child, and to sign in students and make sure riders have access to water. Sign up online by filling out the volunteer application form on the Rockdale County Autism Support Group website www.rockdaleautism.org
The Rockdale County Clerk of Court Office made a donation to support this year’s camp, and the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office has provided bike helmets. Tax deductible donations can be made to Rockdale County Autism Support Group, Inc., P.O. Box 381, Conyers, GA 30012. Tax ID# 45-0628131.
The camps are sponsored by The Hospital Authority of Rockdale County and Kohl’s Department Store.
For more information, visit www.rockdaleautism.org/ican-shine-bike-camp/.