Monday, April 1, 2013

How Down syndome affects Cate's riding a bike

You might be saying of course Cate should be able to ride a bike she is 7 or you might be saying wow can kids with Down syndrome ride bikes?  Those of course are the far ends of spectrum - those who never underestimate Cate or kids like her and those who always underestimate them consciously or unconsciously.  The facts are though that learning to ride a bike is not as simple a process for Cate as it is for Lucy.  In general learning to ride a bike could be hard for a child with Ds because of hypotonia (low muscle tone) and a related lack of coordination.  It might also be hard for a child with Ds to have the motivation to do the work if it is not something that interests them.  For us - Cate is athletic, strong, and active just like Lucy.  But the reality is that new major motor skills can be hard for her and motor planning is not always a natural process, it take practice.  She really never learned to crawl and she was 22 months old before learned to walk - even though in her own way she was totally mobile by this age.  It took Physical Therapy and practice to learn to walk for Cate, unlike Lucy who I swear stood up and walked 4 steps on the very first try without anyone ever showing her what to do.  So it is not a surprise that learning to ride a bike has been a bit of a process.  I got Cate a toddler bike at a friend's garage sale but after a couple tries when she was 4 or 5, but it was obvious she was just not ready.  She constantly pushed the pedals backwards making her stop which was really frustrating to her, plus she had no desire to do it.  We live on a big hill - there is no where in our neighborhood to really ride a bike, heck I'm not even sure how many actual kids she'd ever seen doing it really.  She just didn't care and with Cate that is the only successful place to start with something needing practice.  Last winter my parents found a bigger bike for Cate at a garage sale and dad added some training wheels for us so that summer we carried the bikes to the nearest cul-de-sac and started trying to teach both the girls.  It was a back breaking experience for Ric and I but Cate was definitely more interested.  She still have problems keeping a pedalling cycle going but at least she was cooperative.  After that we kind of let the practice slide because of lack of practice area and motivation on my part mostly.

I do want Cate to learn to ride a bike because any form of exercise she likes is a good thing and as she gets older it is a valid possibility for transportation.  So our upcoming beach trip offered all of us the motivation we needed to buckle down and practice.  The place we are staying has two adult bikes and is on the boardwalk to the beach.  A friend told me her kids rode to the beach everyday and I could immediately see how much easier that trip would be then walking back and forth multiple times a day.  So I started talking up the bike riding and then last week as soon as the weather turned nice, I piled both bikes into the car and headed to new park with plenty of good flat bike practice area.  At the time I was pretty sure I was crazy to head our on this venture to teach both girls basically from scratch by myself.  I was amazed at how well our first outing went.  The girls were both excited by the promise if they learned to ride all the way around the circle (a 1/4 mile walking track) that they could ride to the beach on vacation.  We donned all the pads and helmets then right off the bat Cate went a few feet with no help.  She was determined to get it so she practiced by herself while I helped Lucy learn for a while.  Within a half hour Lucy was off and running giving me some time to work with Cate.  Both girls had trouble getting started in certain pedal positions but overall they were moving in the right direction.  Cate's biggest problem is watching her feet instead of the road ahead.  So she that first day she had some falls because she overturns the front wheel to the left getting the wheel sideways and dumping her off.  But every time she cried for a minute, accepted a kiss, then said she wanted to try again.  By the end of that day she was going for decent distances.  Since then we've tried a couple more times and they just keep getting better.  On Friday we demo'd for daddy and I actually got a short video of Cate.

She is still a riding pretty slow but she is pretty darn steady and getting the hang of the motor planning and coordination required.  I think it will be a while before we take off the training wheels but I don't doubt someday we'll get there - this momma is just not in any hurry!!!