Until recently, 8-year-old Cannon Ward was unable to ride a bike. On Saturday, though, Cannon and a group of other children with special needs pedaled around on adaptive bicycles, a testament to his physical therapy at Neuro-Developmental Treatment Programs Inc. in Augusta.
"He could never ride a bike before because he didn't have the muscle strength or coordination to be able to do that," said Cannon's mother, Paige. Her son has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that limits his muscle coordination and strength in his legs.
On Saturday, NDT Programs held a Bike Day event at its center on Crawford Avenue, offering a variety of adaptive bikes for children with special needs. Sixteen families attended the event.
For Cannon, NDT Programs was where he learned to ride a bike for the first time weeks ago as part of physical therapy after a recent surgery to improve muscle movement in his legs.
Cannon rides a bike with three wheels for greater stability, upright handlebars and backrest, a seat belt and foot enclosures on the bike pedals. His mother can walk along with him as he rides and, if needed, use the rear steering and hand brake options at walking height.
Adaptive bicycles can cost about $2,000. NDT Programs has been using one on loan for the children's therapy.
"Adaptive bikes are expensive and costs are prohibitive for most of our families," said Julie Reeves, a physical therapist at NDT Programs. "So many of our families have never seen their child ride a bike before, and for them to see their children (ride) for the first time almost takes their breath away."
NDT Programs hopes sponsorships and donations will help more families acquire adaptive bikes in the near future.
Riding an adaptive bike is great therapy for children with special needs, said Dr. Judith Bierman, the owner and director of NDT Programs.
Bike riding increases strength, improves flexibility and is a great cardiovascular exercise, she said.
The physical therapy provided by adaptive bikes is vital for the children, but the social interaction and fun the children have also is important.
Cannon said he enjoys riding the adaptive bike because "I can go where I want to go."
Reach Meg Mirshak at (706) 828-2946 or firstname.lastname@example.org.