Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #176~ Special Needs Summer Recreation Programs

Blog #176~Special Needs Summer Recreation Programs

The heat is on!  Are you looking into programs for your child with special needs this summer?  There are many types of programs available including camps, athletic and leisure programs.  A great place to start is to contact your local park district to see if they offer any special recreation programs.  For programs in here in Illinois click on this link: http://

Here are some links for special needs summer programs:

Special Olympics- http://

Buddy Up Tennis- http://

Top Soccer-

I Can Ride Bike Camps-

Easter Seals-

Gi Gi’s Playhouse-

American Camp Association-

Very Well has a list of Inclusive Sports Programs-

Friendship Circle List of Camps-

Diveheart Scuba program-

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My son Nick (pictured above), is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  He has participated in many of these programs over the years.  These include local library programs, Special Olympics, Challenger Baseball League, Top Soccer, adaptive swim lessons (thru the park district special needs program), Diveheart scuba and I Can Shine Bike Camp.  During the summer months he also attended ESY (Extended Summer Year) summer school.  These programs helped him to learn new skills, have a structured routine, and develop friendships.

Nick at ESY Summer School…..


I Can Shine Bike Camp….

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Many of these programs are available for children with special needs throughout the U.S.  My son Nick had great experiences in participating in these programs. It never hurts to just try a new program, you never know what might be a good fit!  If you know of a program you would like to share, please contact me.  I’m always updating my resource list on this website and sharing them with other support groups.  Here’s to a great summer 🙂

That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome

Blog #65~Tour De Nick

Blog #65~ Tour De Nick

Here’s how the scene sets up……Enter Nick into the Fox Valley Park District Recreation Center with bike helmet in hand walking appropriately down the corridor. He gives the queen wave (his signature hello to patrons passing by). Great start, yes! 🙂 We got there early, and waited in the viewing area.  Without warning, Nick suddenly hurled his helmet at the receptionist.  I threw my hand up trying to deflect it, but missed.  His helmet narrowly skims the side of her face.  This is shaping up to be a long week…. I Can Shine- Lose the Training Wheels Bike Camp… Hmmm, what the hell was I thinking?

I was thinking that after the success of his scuba experience that maybe I should try to expand his horizons.  Check the May 2013 archives to read about this in Blog #53~Scuba Diving, Really?   Click here and check it out:

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Had I been limiting my son’s potential due to his dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism?  It was time to try something new and bike camp seemed like a good plan to move him forward.

At the parent meeting the staff went explained of how the week would go. Approximately 80% of the individuals who participate in our iCan Bike programs ride a two-wheel bicycle independently by the end of our five-day programs. The remaining 20% of these individuals make tremendous progress towards this goal and leave our programs accompanied by parents and/or siblings trained as ‘spotters’ to pick up where we leave off!  The bikes used are lower so that the child’s feet can easily touch the ground upon stopping.  Roller wheels are put on the back to better aid in balance.  As the week progresses the wheels are changed out to wean the rider off and get them on two wheels.  For more information visit,

Armed with a task strip of images we proceeded…..

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Day 1:

Nick entered the venue along with 7 other kids who have special needs.  Some were hesitant to get on the bike right away.  The volunteers managed to get the helmet on him, then Nick proceeded to do a stop, drop and plop on the ground.  After some coaxing he finally got up and sat  on his designated bike with roller wheels on the back.  Getting started pedaling was tough and he is unable to balance.  He couldn’t steer at all.  The bike began to shift back and forth across the tennis court like a metal ball bouncing off the bumpers inside a pin ball machine in slow motion.   I cringed… A turtle could have beaten him easily down the court.  He stopped often and I could see him pinching his cheeks (a sign that he is frustrated.) Through the glass I could tell he was cursing too.  I took off to buy him a Sprite to use as a reward each time he made a lap around the courts.  75 minutes each day for 5 days, I wasn’t sure this was going to work out.

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Day 2:

I pulled into the parking lot and Nick began to clap.  Whew that’s a good sign. 🙂 Nick accepted the helmet much better.  He was able to handle more laps around the tennis court going a bit faster and seemed to pinch his cheeks less. It was great to see him ride the tandem bike and stay in sync with the staff member behind him. Reward for the day, Taco Bell!  I am going to put 5 pounds on easily this week, ugghhh

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Day 3:

The staff announced that this is the most exciting day of the week.  “Today is launch day.”  🙂  “Many of the kids will be taking off on two wheels!”  Parents were encouraged to come in and cheer, take pictures and celebrate.  I got a lump in my throat seeing these kids take off with success. Pride was written across the smiles on their faces.  Nick was making improvements but still had trouble pushing the pedals.  He worked on the trainer with a goal to pedal ten times in a row.  The staff reported that he was able to balance better and was starting to steer and turn more on his own.  However, he would be a failure to launch.

Day 4:

This was move in day for his older brother, Hank who attends Northern Illinois University.

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Nick’s respite worker, Lara said he was up on two wheels with the spotters close at hand.  He had a good day and enjoyed lunch at McDonalds afterwards.

Day 5:

Nick started out on the trainer to work on pedaling technique.  He road the roller wheel bike, tandem bike and the 2 wheeler bike with a handle on the back.  I took a video of him on the 2 wheeler bike. He was so slow that the footage looked like a still frame picture.  Nick was the last remaining cyclist to head outside and the only one who didn’t launch on two wheels. The iCan Ride staff recommended we put him on a 24 inch cruiser bike with a handle attached to the back.  She felt he made progress balancing and turning and encouraged him to come back next year. The  Fox Valley Special Recreation Association coordinator  gathered the kids together for a group picture.  Each child was rewarded a special license to ride.

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I am glad that Nick had this experience.  My goals for the week:

  1. Give him something to do that was structured and physical.
  2. See if he could pedal so we could possibly look into getting a tandem bike.
  3. Wear him out so he wouldn’t drive me bonkers while he is out of school. 🙂

Nick made improvements and endured more each day, plus he didn’t have any meltdowns. Did he enjoy it as much as the scuba experience? No, but at least he tried something new and it was not an epic fail.  Will we do it again?  That depends on whether he pulls those bike camp icons out of his picture communication book and requests it.  You never know until you try…That’s what is in my noggin this week.