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wabisabi
06-20-2005, 02:50 PM
I saw this on our weekly press releases from the Cal State system and thought it was so cool!

Cycling To Success
Press-Democrat
By Katy Hillenmeyer --
Depth perception and coordination don't come naturally to Leah Magnotti, an 11-year-old with autism who's preferred to run alongside her cycling dad rather than ride a two-wheeler herself.

But midway through an adaptive bicycling camp at Sonoma State University that ended Friday, the Willits girl dictated a letter to an older schoolmate, elated that she could confidently sit astride a bicycle and grip its handlebars.

"Can you believe it? I rode the bike!" Leah wrote, having shaken old anxieties but still needing some assistance.

Leah joined 28 fellow campers, ages 7 to 16, who pedaled around a Sonoma State gym Friday on bikes equipped to help kids with disabilities and developmental delays overcome barriers to cycling.

"We have never seen her as proud of herself as she's been this week," Mary Porter said of her daughter Leah. "It's something else she knows she can conquer."

Sonoma State, the first of three California sites to offer the training, started the adapted bicycling camp, Sidekicks, five years ago. Inspired by her meeting with adapted bike inventor Richard Klein at a national conference, SSU's adaptive physical education coordinator, Elaine McHugh, recruited the first participants in 2001.

Similar training programs are now held in Chico and Davis, which will host two of Klein's camps starting July 18 and July 25.

"The population of kids who need this program in this country is well over 1 million," estimated Klein, an engineer whose Illinois company, Rainbow Trainers, Inc., supplied a fleet of adapted bikes to SSU.

Guided by the motto "Lose the training wheels," Klein instead offered campers bikes with stability-enhancing rollers in lieu of wheels, oversized 6-inch- or 10-inch-wide tires and training handles that coaches held while campers gradually weaned themselves from their helpers.

As campers prepared to cap off their five-day training Friday with a bicycling rodeo to spotlight new skills, McHugh acknowledged that training wheels, tricycles and four-wheelers may still remain the first choice for some.

"Not all the children will progress to a two-wheeler," she said, "but all of them are learning."

Before the camp, Josh Brown's two-wheeler got few workouts, his father recalled.

"He would give up easily ... and be off into doing something else," Cloverdale father Ron Brown said of his youngest child, who has Down syndrome.

But this week, the enthused 12-year-old awakened his parents at 5:30 a.m., raring to go.

"You don't have to haul him out of bed, like pulling teeth out of a crocodile," Josh's father said.

For Audrey Elias, 8, a brain disorder called polymicrogyria caused weakness on her left side that made balancing out her stronger right side a challenge. But by Wednesday, the Petaluma girl had begun breaking out of the habit of leaning to one side.

Audrey's mother, Jill Fornabio, said the Grant Elementary School student looks forward to cycling with her athletically gifted best friend, Malia, who lives two blocks away.

"It's really great that Audrey can do something with her on a physical level," Fornabio said.