Special needs camp teaches bike-riding

Published 12:13 am Sunday, July 20, 2014

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The father didn’t want anyone to see, so he tried to casually brush them away. But the tears that welled in his eyes burst forth. His special needs son was actually riding a two-wheel bicycle.

That’s what happens on the last day of the Lose The Training Wheels camp hosted by Marshall University this past week at Huntington High School

The impetus for the camp is Gregg Twietmeyer, associate professor at the School of Kinesiology at Marshall, who has run the camp for the past four years, open to special needs youth 8 years and up.

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This summer’s camp attracted 22 from the Tri-State

“They start on a modified bike with the back tires removed and replaced with rollers,” he said. “That helps with the fear factor.”

The rollers are tapered to allow the youth to master their balance. Every so often the rollers are replaced with ones with a slightly higher taper. This is done six times.

Then the child gets on the front seat of a tandem bike with an adult on the back who can steer. Next they get on a regular bike with a pole attached.

“It is easy to grab it if they lose their balance,” Twietmeyer said. “Once they have mastered that, usually Friday morning, they are practicing on a bike with no pole at all.”

However, if a parent thinks the child could use more practice, a similar pole can be bought and the parent and child can keep practicing at home.

“This is my favorite week of the year,” Twietmeyer said. “You watch these kids ride and see them grow right before your eyes.”