Riding along on a bike, with the wind in your hair, has got to be one of the most freeing sensations that we can experience.
It seems to engender that feeling of not having a care in the world, perhaps it’s because it gives you a different perspective on it, as it whips past you in a blur; cold air hitting your body – it’s hard not to feel alive. It’s an experience that we probably take for granted, but most of us have done it, even back in childhood.
However, for Allan (pictured) – who as well as being both severely intellectually disabled and autistic, is unable to communicate verbally – this is just one of the many experiences that had never been a possibility for him.
One of the ways that his disability translates into his everyday life is that Allan is extremely sensitive to noise, touch, and consequently, large groups of people. So, as you can imagine, cycling, particularly out in the community, seemed an impossibility.
Even the feeling of the wind blowing in his hair was foreign to him, because although he likes the motion of travelling in a car, he had been unable to experience driving in a car with the windows down, because the sound the air makes coming in the windows is unbearable to him.
With that in mind, seeing Allan enjoying speeding around at Wheels in Motion, quiet in contemplative enjoyment, egging the driver of the rickshaw on to do more and more laps, as others speed by on their own bikes – you get some perspective of what an amazing experience it must be for him.
Jade, Allan’s Community Facilitator at ConneXu, recounts that he was unsure how he would enjoy it before they arrived. In fact, Allan was at first fascinated by the huge undercover space at the Avantidrome in Cambridge (where Wheels in Motion takes place) and spent the first session looking around him in wonder.
It helped that Wheels in Motion is a safe environment, with fun activities set at the level that people are comfortable with. Set up and run by Aaron Ure (who is also father to Allan’s flatmate Toby), Wheels in Motion is an initiative that helps the disabled and ageing recover their mobility and independence through cycling.
Darrell, another of Allan’s flatmates, also visits Wheels in Motion with Allan every week. Also supported by ConneXu, and always keen to do his own thing and move on his own, Darrell took to Wheels in Motion easily.
However, as he gets older, he has started to lose his confidence on his feet. To begin with, Darrell was a bit hesitant to pedal the trike by himself, but with Aaron’s help to build up his confidence, Darrell now rides the trike independently, with Aaron riding along beside him.
The experience Darrell has gained through Wheels in Motion has given him an ‘I can do it’ attitude in other areas of his life too.
“Before starting Wheels in Motion, Darrell was shaking a bit,” says Jade, his Community Facilitator, “but the sessions have really helped his mobility in general, and that has had a fantastic effect on Darrell’s overall confidence.”
In fact, Jade is amazed at how the regular sessions at Wheels in Motion have had flow-on benefits in other areas for both men.
“After losing his confidence on his feet, Darrell now feels like he can do things on his own. And for Allan, he is testing his confidence – bouncing higher and higher on the trampoline at home to get that feeling of wind in his hair. This has been a real world-opener for him.”
Allan and Darrell go to Wheels in Motion once a week at the Avantidrome. “Wheels in Motion is now part of our weekly routine. The men absolutely love it – and get excited about going when it is mentioned.” Says Jade; “It gives them another weekly event to look forward to. We have seen a large improvement in mobility and confidence in both of them in a short time.
“Our goal in the future is that Darrell will become completely independent on the trike – and once this happens, we will organise to get one for him to use at home as well.”
Jade adds that there has been yet another benefit for the men in attending Wheels in Motion; “The social aspect of Wheels in Motion is also brilliant – there is so much care and support shown between the participants. It is a new avenue for building friendships, where otherwise they may not have that opportunity to interact with other individuals like them, with varying needs from all over the Waikato. The shared act of facing a new challenge in life means that you have something in common, and it breaks the ice.”
In fact, Jade plans to get some of the cyclists from Wheels in Motion together for a coffee in a couple of weeks.
The opportunities for building physical and emotional confidence, as well as friendships, through Wheels in Motion are obvious.
For Allan and Darrell, and for their support people, not only is it an enjoyable experience seeing them relish the sessions, but also to see the flow-on benefits to their lives.
Watch this space for news on how the coming revolutions around Wheels in Motion track in the lives of Darrell and Allan, and just where it might lead them on their individual journeys.
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