One of the most important skills that we learn as kids is riding a bicycle. While it may seem like an effortless thing to do, some kids need specialized equipment to help them learn to ride a bike.
For children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and complications that make balancing and coordination a challenge, riding a bike is something they can struggle with. That’s why we have adaptive tricycles that help boost the confidence, coordination, and balance of children with such special needs.
Adaptive / special needs tricycles are also not reserved for kids with special needs. They are also adult tricycles for persons who need the extra maneuverability offered.
An Introduction to Special Needs Tricycles
There are all kinds of special needs tricycles / adaptive tricycles on the market. The tricycles are designed for both adults and children. Below we oultline some of the key points about special needs tricycles and adaptive tricyles.
Types of Adaptive Tricycles
There are different designs and styles of an adaptive tricycle, but they all offer assistance in power needed for smooth navigation.
- Upper Extremities Adaptive Tricycles
This trike is designed to help people regain the use of their hands. For example, if one has the use of one hand, they can ride the trike using a single hand and leg. The one-handed steering involves innovative handlebars where one can stop and shift gears effortlessly.
For power output, these tricycles allow application of a pull and push motion on adapted pedals. They provide synchronized foot/hand pedaling to offer both active and passive exercise.
- Hand and Foot Tricycle
For children with lower extremities challenges, a hand and foot tricycle helps to increase their range of motion. It can be propelled using either the hands or the feet. They are best for kids with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or low muscle tone. Children can, therefore, improve reciprocal motor pattern which helps with better coordination.
Features to Expect on Special Needs Tricycles
- Loop Handlebars
These handlebars are designed for persons with a limited range of motion. One can place hands anywhere along the loop.
- Comfy-Grip Handle Bars
For individuals where the range of motion is different for each arm, comfy-grip handlebars enable pacing the hands anywhere and adjusting the half loop independently.
- Rear Steering
When a caregiver assists the tricycle, rear steering is a must have. It allows the caregiver to control the direction and speed of the trike such that the rider can focus on the steering. Rear steering is ideal for persons who want to improve strength in their legs.
- Straps, back, and head support systems
Maximum comfort must be achieved on an adaptive tricycle. If stability on a tricycle seat is a challenge, the child will have the help of straps to secure them on the trike. These seats are usually adjustable, and they have a padded backrest and headrest.
- Fixed Gear
A fixed gear allows the individual to propel the trike forward and backward without the feet necessarily touching the ground.
- Puncture-proof Wheels
They can either be solid tires for smooth terrain or pneumatic tires for rough terrain. Solid tires do not need inflation. They are usually puncture-proof, and therefore maintenance-free. Pneumatic tires, on the other hand, require inflation and proper maintenance but they offer shock absorption and a smooth ride on uneven roads.
- Parking Brake
A parking brake prevents the trike from shifting forward or backward when mounting and dismounting.
Accessories to go with Special Needs Tricycles
- Additional Backrest and Headrest
If the provided backrest is not entirely supportive, manufacturers offer extra backrests with security straps for that extra support. For headrests, you have the option to optimize the positioning of your child using a flat, contoured, or winged headrest. These accessories never require using tools to adjust.
It can come as a standard feature for some adaptive cycles, but if yours does not have one, you may need it for the rider to learn to stop the trike using the hand drake.
- Front Guide Bar
If you need to guide the tricycle from the front, a guide bar attached to the handlebar will come in handy. It is best used by riders who can’t steer themselves as they begin using an adaptive tricycle.
- Pulley Systems
These come in handy to maintain a balanced pedal. They are great for kids who force the pedal forward because of their extreme tone.
Benefits of Adaptive Tricycles
- Wide Range of Motion
Most of the muscles in the body are involved in riding an adaptive tricycle. It encourages the equal growth of muscles and bones as they will be growing at the same rate. The individual participates in everyday rides according to their ability. It improves balance and stabilization as the hip extensors and quadriceps grow stronger.
- They Provide a Fun way to Exercise
Commercially available equipment is not always built to favor persons with special needs. But with an adaptive tricycle one gets the maximum postural support needed to participate in an exercise program. You can have adaptive tricycles that are either stationary or mobile for use in the outdoors.
For children with reduced trunk control, adaptive tricycles offer a safe environment where they can practice on getting back their balance while their body has full support. Trikes for people with special needs accommodate all kinds of grips giving the user the confidence to hold on and make the necessary movements.
- Cognitive Development
Children are naturally inquisitive, but when movement is limited, their desire to explore and learn new things is unquenched. With an adaptive tricycle, children with special needs feel the independence offered by freedom of movement. Therefore, they can explore their environment and learn from it.
- Improved Health
You are bound to receive both physical and mental benefits while riding an adaptive tricycle. It goes from cardiovascular strength to hand/eye coordination, and even keeping the digestive system functioning in top condition.
- Encourages Socialization
Children need to be around friends to develop a sense of self. While children involve themselves in riding bikes as a social activity, kids with special needs also get to enjoy being with friends. This way, they will feel the joy of being included in the activities that their peers love.
- It is fun and Rewarding
To the caregivers and parents who watch their children transition from being unable to move and use certain parts of their body to transferring what they learn to their daily lives is very rewarding. They make the whole experience worthwhile.
Conclusion About Special Needs Tricycles & Adaptive Tricycles
It’s apparent that adaptive tricycles come with a good share of therapeutic benefits. They give every child the chance of building fond memories from their childhood. Special needs tricycles prove that mobility is possible especially for people who spend long hours seated in a wheelchair. They offer lower and upper extremities training and thus a medical necessity.