ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development, Ontario- Mississauga

For many kids, learning to ride a bike for the first time is a pivotal moment. Now imagine how significant it is for a kid with a disability.

ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development is Ontario’s largest children's treatment centre – serving over 13,500 children with disabilities and their families each year.

Clients have a wide range of physical and/or developmental disabilities, communication disorders, autism, and some are blind and/or deaf. The goal is to help each child build on their unique strengths, and to maximize opportunities for independence, health and well-being. The centre also provides supports and resources to help families meet the challenges of everyday life.

One of ErinoakKids’ most successful recreational programs is iCan Bike, which teaches children and youth with special needs how to ride a two-wheeled bike. Forty participants take part in a 75-minute class each day for a week in early July.

“Being able to ride a bike is such an important skill for children and youth, particularly the children and youth that ErinoakKids serves. Often times, opportunities to be physically active are denied to children with special needs because programs are not able to provide adequate supports for them,” said Nonit, a former ErinoakKids client.

Around eight out of every 10 children who participate in the iCan Bike program can ride a two-wheel bicycle independently by the end of the five-day program. The other two make tremendous progress toward this goal and leave our program accompanied by parents and/or siblings trained as ‘spotters’ to pick up where the program leaves off. Just by being part of the program, participants open a door to lifelong physical activity and connect with a means of active transportation.

A grant from GoodLife Kids Foundation would cover the costs for a minimum 14 clients to participate in the iCan Bike program. ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development aims to offer this program to a minimum of 40 clients annually, and is seeking extra funding from community partners to offset the annual costs of this non-government funded program.

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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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