ACT Playgroups is very excited to have two of its staff members – Fiona Jarvis and Debra Evans – winning Children’s Week Awards this year. Both are part of the amazing Cyclabilties program.
Cyclabilities is a Road Safety and Learn to Ride program for children with additional needs. According to the Road Safety Trust, the ACT has the highest cycling participation rate in Australia. However, children with additional needs (and their families) are often overlooked and do not benefit from the opportunities of being involved in a healthy and socially beneficial outdoor activity.
Cyclabilities was formed in 2016 and supports children of all abilities. Selina Hardwicke and Fiona Jarvis started Cyclabilities with the desire and hope to provide an inclusive, welcoming holistic program that helps families with children with additional needs develop cycling and road safety skills and capacity. Selina and Fiona aspired to connect and engage families, build community capacity and do “something that makes a difference”.
Through hundreds of hours of volunteer time Fiona and Selina designed the program and formed an amazing team. This team was dedicated and committed from the start and included Samantha Whybrow (Occupational Therapist), Jonathon Beale and Stuart Noice (Exercise Physiologists), Kara Potter, Debra Evans, Nicole Kees and Steven Dodt. Each of these people became part of the team because they offered an incredible set of skills, a desire to make a difference and a heart that is pure and giving.
All those who are part of the Cyclabilities team volunteer numerous hours of time, resources, heart and love to help and support all families. Therapists accept a very small pay, however the amount of volunteer time they give far outweighs this.
The team of Cyclabilities genuinely care, show compassion and a drive, need, want and hope of making a difference to the lives of all. The team do this as a community service, and they all put in many, many hours of time and love to help each individual family.
The team at Cyclabilities are aware that there are many factors that combine to challenge the ability of children with additional need. One of the most significant is the lack of resources available to address the cycling and road safety needs of these children.
Cyclabilities focuses on developmentally appropriate stations identifying road safety, strength and conditioning and cycling skills. Activities consolidate skills development and ensure that learning is always fun. Cyclabilities recognise that each student is different and that they come to the program with different needs. Because of this Cyclabilities is committed to providing a personalised, person centred learning environment that is responsive to the needs in individual participants.
Each week you see joy, happiness, hope and skill development of many children. Each week lives of families have changed and each week so many families are connected. If it takes a village to raise a child and Cyclabilities provides part of that village for so many families. The connections of families and the community is growing and together families are growing in strength and hope.
Many families have positive stories to share about their Cyclabilities experience. These are just a few and are just a glimpse of the remarkable work this group of amazing people are doing for the ACT community.
Cyclabilities was a life saver!
We were really lucky to be offered a place in Cyclabilities at a critical time for my family and its needs. At the time we had three children aged 5, 3 and 1. Our eldest child was having difficulties coping at school due to his additional needs and it was resulting in him fleeing across busy roads. Despite being taught road safety daily on our way to school each morning, the information didn’t seem to be having an impact. Cyclabilities fixed that. We went from weekly phone calls from the school or afters telling us that our child had almost been hit by a vehicle because he hadn’t looked, to reports that he was now at least pausing and checking the road for traffic. This was an unbelievable improvement that occurred in less than 6 weeks.
On top of the program saving our child’s life and increasing his safety it was a fantastic place to be. The staff were welcoming and inspiring and it was a place where we could finally feel like we belonged. There was no judgement or criticism, but rather encouragement and praise for all achievements made. They reduced the stress and anxiety I often feel when taking a child with additional needs out to events, and welcomed all abilities and frustrations with patience. Despite the program being full of challenges, it was tailored to each individual child and was full of many small achievements along the way to a greater success. It was so very rewarding for my eldest child and also for me, as a parent, to see him succeed and watch the emotions of happiness and pride cross his face. In a world where our children are often set to “fail” this was their chance to shine through determination and with support. This program provided me with many moments of pride and had me shedding secret tears of joy along the way.
Throughout the program I watched the amazing staff work with the challenging behaviours my son threw at them and turn them around to inspire him to succeed. They appealed to his competitiveness and worked with his inability to remain on task for long periods of time and achieved success. By the end of the program my son could cross a road safely (my main reason for participating in the program) and had even turned “Stop, look and listen” into a song, which has filtered down to my other 2 children and is used when we cross the road daily. Before the program he had also been a bit hesitant about riding his new big bike, but by the end of the program we had lifted the training wheels a bit and he had gotten his confidence back and was even riding up the hill – one of his biggest challenges at the start of the program.
I can’t praise the team or the program enough. It was amazing for us all and reduced what had been a lot of stress in our life, by teaching our boy how to safely cross a road. What I truly loved about the program was how inclusive it all was and how families were encouraged to all come along. It was really special to have the whole family there sharing in the success of our eldest and being able to see the joy and elation on his face with every success. We had siblings, grandparents and parents all come to see this wonderful program that had provided a spark in our child’s life.
I am forever grateful for the way Cyclabilities changed our life and for the inspiration and influence it still has in our lives 12 months later.
When we started Cyclabilities our son Zander had always wanted to ride bikes but because of his high anxiety struggled with all the different components needed to ride a bike and having the confidence to even get on a bike and try. The first week at Cyclabilities Zander was very scared and didn’t even want to put a helmet on. The team, especially Fiona gave him love, attention and support and even got him to sit on a bike.
Zander has more difficulties not related to his anxiety. Zander has Autism and also has difficulties with balance and core strength making him get tired very quickly.
With the Cyclabilities program the team supported Zander in all areas. The program has occupational therapists and exercise physiologists is so cheap and really gave us something we could never have done ourselves. The team showed patience and support and worked to help all Zander’s individual needs. Zander gained the confidence and skills he needed to progress from riding a modified bike to a balance bike and can now ride a normal bike.
While gaining the skills he needed to physically ride bikes – like pedalling, steering, controlling speed and braking, the Cyclabilites team also offered an all round program which included helping Zander to recognise hazards when around roads, what actions to take and building on his safety awareness.
Zander built on a lot of skills with Cyclabilites and made amazing progress, but I think the biggest change for him was getting his confidence around riding. He now enjoys riding his bike and can ride with his friends.
For me the program was also wonderful. I was able to bring my other children and they were supported and encouraged and welcomed. The place where Cyclabilities is held is safe and secure and the team so friendly.
I also made lots of friends there and now have an extended “Cyclabilities family” that we spend time with.
Our youngest son has several developmental delays, including speech delays. He has grown up very aware that he couldn’t speak like other kids, so rather than speak and get the sounds wrong he would remain silent. We could see that this was impacting his confidence and self image.
We enrolled him for Cyclabilities so that he could learn to ride a bike, but primarily we were interested in the communication, listening, and following instructions aspect of the program. It was a way to expand and practice his speaking and listening skills in a real world setting. The fact that the program has a really strong emphasis on bike and road safety was also extremely attractive, as sometimes our kids learn better in a peer environment. The fact that he learnt to ride a bike and cross the road safely (amongst other things) just seemed like the icing on the cake.
So the best outcome from this course is that Luke’s self-confidence grew. He had started off getting upset and frustrated with little hiccups along the way, but learnt with perseverance and practice that he could get better. He started to seek out the teachers and chat with them. He appreciated the feedback they gave. Since completing two terms of the Cyclabilities program he has gone on to join Joeys (Scouts), gotten a class award for his pride in his work and spoke very clearly at his school assembly yesterday. Something that never happened before. So thank you for helping this child to grow.
My 6 year old started Cyclabilities due to having anxiety around bike riding and lacking confidence. The amazing team of therapists worked with her each week to develop different skills to help her feel like she was in control of the bike and manage her anxiety. The program that is run is incredibly inclusive and children with all abilities work together to overcome their individual goals around road safety and bike riding. I would highly recommend this program to any parent that is struggling with helping their child with learning to ride or road safety.
My husband and I were very excited to hear about Cyclabilities. While we had expected our boy to learn road safety, the benefits that he, the special needs community, and the community at large received exceeded our high expectations.
Having a team of therapists and Directors trained to work with special needs kids made such a difference as fine tuning the pilot program could be focussed on, and not educating the staff how to work with the individual kids. In addition to learning
road safety, riding his bike with the training wheels taken off, improved social skills and learning to follow instructions, our boy gained confidence and self-esteem. Being a special needs parent, you quickly learn that institutions’ models are based on can’ts and not your child’s abilities.
Cyclabilities is unique in that it harnesses play with an experienced, educated staff that directly enhances a child’s freedom on a bike while providing valuable real life knowledge. It was a joy to see the road safety lessons take hold with all of the kids. As well, the “work” done in the gym highlighted the need to follow instructions while giving the kids the best time exercising. It was a win-win for our active boy.
As an advocate for our special needs community, I have heard parents’ genuine fear for their kids regarding safety. The instilling of road safety is a tangible benefit for all the kids. I use the steps and vocabulary learned to this day. In addition, with the knowledge of road safety, our kids can traverse the world more securely. It may be difficult to imagine how a child is not conscious of their own safety; please think of the anxiety for a parent.
How wonderful for the community at large to have our kids biking the trails, with help or not! What an inclusive experience, where kids and adults can learn about each other’s abilities and challenges, and have fun while discovering! We went to the opening of the Tuggeranong bike riding arena and it was lovely to witness everybody enjoying the trails, and holding hands while crossing the “street”.
We are raising our boy to cherish the freedom and responsibility of riding his bike safely. With Cyclabilities, we are on our way!
To find out more about Cyclabilities see: