Five-year-old Hazel Mabilia had been really keen to learn how to ride – she just needed a little extra help to get on her bike.

Power2Pedal teaches children with autism how to ride in an inclusive and safe environment.

Hazel’s mum Julia said they had not long moved to Ballarat and caught the second half of the program at the suggestion of Hazel’s physiotherapist. Now Hazel is starting to prepare for new riding goals. “The goal is for Hazel to be able to ride to school,” Julia said. “They do a great job with the kids. They weren’t pressured. It was good fun but they were challenged in a successful way.”

Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club delivers the six-week program, which is now in its fourth year. BSCC volunteer Chris Liston said the aim was simply to help children with autism develop their cycling skills and be able to confidently ride a bike. Mr Liston said it could often be hard for children with autism to coordinate all the little things they needed to get working to ride. Once they had riding skills, they could just focus on riding. “Parents also know they can go [to Vic Park] now on the criterium course where it’s empty and safe, especially if the weather’s right,” Mr Liston said. “Some children get a lot out of it, some don’t, but it’s great to see them develop and move forward. “We hope riding can build networks and kids can be part of it with other kids.”

Mr Liston said the goal when children showed up with training wheels was to try building their confidence on a balance bike. This is a technique Hazel is continuing to work on. Darcy Pastore has been building skills and confidence in the Power2Pedal program for Ballarat children with autism to learn to ride in Victoria Park. Mr Liston said it did not matter whether they had won anything, it was about the fact they had both put in good efforts to improve.

Power2Pedal, in partnership with Sports Central, is supported by MaxiTrans for junior racing and development.

Author – Melanie Whelan
Source – The Courier

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