The Determinants of Successful Cycling in Children with Special Needs




Witter, Alisha

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Bicycle riding plays a central role in the social and physical lives of most children, however, many children with special needs do not acquire the skills to successfully ride a two-wheeled bicycle. This study explored barriers and facilitating factors associated with learning to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. Participants were children (n = 25; and their parents) enrolled in an adapted bike riding camp. The camp was organized by therapists from the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health (QACCH) and facilitated by Lose the Training Wheels staff. The program involved changing the dynamics of the bicycle and the demands of the environment to help children with special needs learn to ride a conventional two-wheeled bicycle. Riding progression, self-efficacy toward cycling, and perceptions of physical competence were assessed pre-camp, immediately post-camp and at a 3-6 month follow-up post-camp. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with parents at follow-up. None of the children were riding independently at pre-test; however, 96% were riding independently in a controlled environment post-camp. Paired t-test revealed self-efficacy toward bike riding increased significantly from pre- to post-camp (Mpre = 16.3, SD=5.6; Mpost = 21.7, SD=4.9, p = .001), but perceptions of competence did not (Mpre = 22.9, SD = 4.5; Mpost = 23.5, SD = 4.7, p = .503). Semi-structured interviews with 10 parents at follow-up revealed that transfer to home was problematic. Five children were no longer riding and four required adult supervision in controlled environments. Common barriers included inaccessible environments, parents unable to help their children, and the re-emergence of children’s fear and hesitation. Changes in pre to post-camp skill and self-efficacy were not accompanied by an increase in perceptions of competence, likely due the very high pre-test scores (ceiling effect). At follow-up, most children were not riding in their home environment. Parents were pleased with the camp program overall, but felt that an extension of the program and supports for the transition to home were needed.



children, disability, self-efficacy, perceptions of competence, cycling, Lose the Training Wheels, ICF