My husband Sam and I have three beautiful boys. Our eldest son is a joy, has many gifts and talents and he also has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
We are an active family who love to be outdoors and who enjoys community participation. Unfortunately, because of Sebastian’s needs he had limited sense of danger. He is nonverbal and had a very limited road safety awareness and his boundary skills were seriously lacking.
Visits to the park became increasingly difficult as Seb would abscond and we were continually worried about his safety. This is especially difficult because we are constantly trying to provide ‘normal’ experiences for our family and his two younger brothers also. We were left feeling isolated from the community, with fear of going anywhere that wasn’t an enclosed space.
My husband loves to cycle and it was our hope that we might go on bike rides together as a family. I wanted this and I was determined to make this happen. I researched and looked at ways to help my son learn to ride a bike. I sought programs that supported children with additional needs to develop road safety awareness and skills. Unfortunately, there was nothing at all available in the ACT and I found very little evidence of any such support across Australia. For our family to have the dream of participating in the community, going on bike riding together and being active outdoors it was going to come down to me to teach him.
I did achieve this, but it was a very difficult, long and frustrating journey. It felt like individual therapy, it wasn’t fun for him or myself and was without the support of therapists of specialists in cycling. I felt alone and very isolated and I was just that.
My son did learn to ride, but only after a long and committed effort on my part. However, his being able to ride opened many doors for us as a family! His new found skills meant that we, as a family, could go riding together. His new found confidence and skills meant that we were the more willing to face new challenges and were much more optimistic about trying new things. My family learned, anew, what it was to be part of the community and to reach out to others with new confidence and hope.
I reflect on how we reached this moment. I think of the pain and the loneliness, the challenges and successes and wonder what we could have done differently. I pondered what it might be that would make this journey easier and more rewarding for others in similar situations. I spoke with friends who have children with additional needs who also shared a similar frustration. Their experience worse than mine as they hadn’t had any success.
Through research I was unable to locate any other road safety or learn to ride programs in the ACT that were specifically designed for children with special needs. It was that which gave birth to Cyclabilities.