Life’s a Journey with CP and Me

Hi Everyone at UCP-OC!katyfd-225x300
Katy here—I just returned from UCP-OC’s bike camp at Soka University in Aliso Viejo (where I am going into my 3rd year for my BA!) For those of you who are unfamiliar with the week-long camp, it is put on by iCanShine, a national organization that provides quality learning opportunities in recreational activities for individuals with disabilities who are determined to learn how to ride a bicycle. The camp is run by UCP-OC and Down Syndrome Association of Orange County and both organizations are very grateful for the support of the Pujols Family Foundation who sponsored the camp.
With the help of some amazing volunteers, the kids spend five days on adaptive bikes in the hope that they will be able to ride a two-wheel bike without any assistance! Having gone on the final day of camp, it was so awesome for me to witness these kids getting out there on two-wheeled bikes for one final ride with confidence with smiles on their faces! I was very proud of these kids with knowing how hard it is to put in the physical effort it takes to succeed like they have.

This experience—although I was not there to witness their entire progress—made me reflect upon my own past when I learned how to ride a bicycle. Having CP, it may seem unlikely that bike riding is actually my favorite form of exercise, but it is true! I did not learn how to ride a bike until I was nearly nine years old (four years later than my twin sis) but I never would have thought that it would become such a fun part of my active lifestyle! The day I learned how to ride a bike is a day I will never forget; my parents woke me up that morning and told me this was the day I was going to ride a two-wheel bicycle. Before then, I just had training wheels and started to feel like I was never going to be rid of them, how embarrasing! My whole family and I took a trip to the boardwalk in Huntington Beach, my hometown, and my dad placed my bike on the side nearest to the sand. He told me to get on my bike, and that he would help me start, but by the end of the day he made me promise that I was going to ride without any help! Looking back, my whole family seemed pretty fearless about my CP—and I think that was a great thing for me at the time! It forced me to continually challenge myself, because everyone around me was always doing the things I wanted to do, but just took longer to learn and adapt to because of my CP. After several scary spills and nose dives into the sand, I became more and more frustrated with my lack of balance, but it motivated me to keep going and I eventually grew more comfortable with the fluidity of my legs and found my rhythm! I was exhausted and probably a little shaken up from the day, but as you may know already, CP comes with its fair shares of scraped knees and hands just from everyday life! Now, biking is the best thing for me; it’s low impact and great cardio! The only adaption I make is adding a foot strap on the left pedal, so my foot won’t slide off in the front. I’ve been riding my beach cruiser around ever since that day and I find it so freeing because I can go much faster than if I was running, and no one would ever know I have a physical disability when I am on a bike!
Looking back, learning how to ride a bike was just the next obstacle that I was determined to overcome at the time and I know myself well enough to admit that I am the type of person to never back down from a challenge, no matter how difficult my CP makes it for me!
That is probably the type of attitude that I’ve carried with me over the years and got me through my years of AYSO soccer, over Yosemite Falls, and into my active lifestyle where I am today. I have had to slow down quite a bit because my CP does make running and rigorous activity difficult; so I just continually adapt myself to what my body can manage on a daily basis! It has taught me to value my body, and has improved my capacity to understand my limitations. I know now that however frustrating they may be—we all have our own limitations whether we set them for ourselves or not. Some people I’ve encountered over the years call me courageous or inspirational, but I prefer to think of myself as a resilient human being… we all have our own struggles to endure—we just have to learn how to better deal with them when we can’t always overcome them, and that’s what my CP has taught me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Angry Bees: A League for Special Children

The Angry Bees

Briana is what our Childcare Coordinator, Yvette, calls a tough little cookie. She has gotten through many difficult circumstances in her young life. For example, when she was younger she needed a trachea and g-tube for feeding and to recieve nutrition.  Today she gained a new found independence, and has gotten to the point where she no longer requires these tools.

Briana is a childcare and respite child who has been with UCP-OC since 2009. She is on the verge of no longer recieveing support due to a lower level of need and increased independence at the Boys and Girls Club. This is what we work towards with each child! Her aide, Christy, first suggested she play soccer in the Boys and Girls Club after school league last year. This has translated to her joining the AYSO league, and is on the Angry Bees team for children with special needs. This league gives children the chance to be active, competitive and learn team work as they work together to come home with a trophy!

The AYSO league had a V.I.P. event last weekend, in which we set up a booth with a raffle. More than 250 players, families and supporters came out for the event on Saturday, November 19th. Even better than having our booth, the event enabled us to see Briana play her sport and win a trophy! She really has come a long way, and we are so honored to support children like her.

For more information on the day you can read the article in the OC Register: http://www.ocregister.com/common/printer/view.php?db=ocregister&id=328635

Mission Possible : Bike Camp 2011

  “I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like”

 -Queen

Take a moment and imagine; an open bike path along the beach, wind in your hair, the sound of the waves breaking next to you and your family or friends riding alongside of you on your new bicycle. Riding a bike is a privilege that many of us take for granted. Most people have vivid memories of riding a bicycle throughout their childhood…and if everyone is like me, a few minor spills along the way!

 Last week, I was able to experience the true gift of being able to master the art of riding a bike at Bike Camp 2011. The camp is put on by Lose the Training Wheels instructors, Nikki & Corey,  and hosted by UCP-OC as well as the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County at the beautiful Soka University in Aliso Viejo. We want to thank Easton-Bell Sports, for generously donating bicycle helmets to each of the participants to keep them safe as the rode around on their bikes!

 The camp starts out in the gym where the children are given a bike adapted to teach children with special needs to ride a bike gradually. Each child has a volunteer stay with them through the week and work alongside of them, and by the end of the week the volunteers are running after the children so that they can keep up! Monday- Wednesday the campers ride around the gym getting used to the bikes and constant pedaling. Thursday the campers were able to go outside and try riding a bike with two wheels! The parking lot was the perfect setting for the campers to hit the asphalt and show off their skills. The parents were overwhelmed and emotional at seeing their child riding a bike on their own.

 Many of the parents of these children never thought they would see the day their child would ride a bike. Parents, like Selah’s mother, were told that their child would never walk or talk. This is a testament of what hard work, intervention, and coming alongside a child can do! If it were not for the determination of parents, volunteers and therapists, these children could be in a very different situation.

The children’s determination to ride the bike on their own was simply put; astounding. At UCP-OC we feel so privileged to be a part of these children’s lives and see these steps into Living a Life Without Limits.

Selah was a recipient of a bike from Edwards Lifesciences the week prior so she had been waiting to ride her new bike on her own! By Friday she was cruising around the parking lot on her new bike with her volunteer running behind her. Here is a video her mom made to document her success!

 

Adaptive Sports for Special Needs

Hello friends! This upcoming month of March is Brain Injury Awareness month, so we will be centering our blog posts on education of the topic, activities available and encouragement to those of you who live with someone with brain injury.

Individuals that have brain injuries need specialized rehabilitation, lifelong management and individualized services and supports in order to live healthy, independent and satisfying lives. Here at UCP-OC we see that brain injury is not something that will hold a child back. Our mission is to serve the children of this community so that they may live Life Without Limits! At our facilities we offer physical therapy that addresses medical problems and injuries that affect a child’s ability to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.

The mountains are a common winter getaway for many Orange County residents. Who doesn’t love the brisk mountain air, the picturesque snow capped mountains, or watching your child zoom down the mountain passing you as watchers by cheer for him/her? Over President’s weekend Cathy Collins and her daughters went to Mammoth for the weekend. They were all able to enjoy the snow and sports thanks to Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra. Her daughter Bridget was born three months premature and had many brain surgeries is diagnosed with Autism, Hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy, and she was able to shred up the mountainside with a professional instructor by her side. She was taken down the mountain with a Bi-Ski and people cheered for her when she passed by; truly encouraging moment for Cathy as she watched.

This program encourages children by allowing them to have the same opportunities, challenges and excitement at conquering the mountain slopes. They offer adaptive sports for special needs. People with physical or cognitive disabilities are able to have fun and healthy experiences in the mountains too! This organization is located in Mammoth, but not to worry there are other organizations around the area that can help your child experience the exhilaration of going down the mountain. These programs have adaptive equipment to fulfill every child’s dream of gliding down a mountain, or enjoying other outdoor activities such as a downhill wheelchair chair program to explore biking the back-country terrain.

If you are going up to Mammoth, Cathy would highly recommend Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra but there are other programs such as Disabled Sports USA Far West.

U.S. Adaptive Recreation Center is found in Big Bear and offers the same programs that had Bridget zooming down the mountain faster than her mom! 

It is important to give your child opportunities to experience new things and keep their brain stimulated and growing! By taking your child to the snow they can use all their senses and see things that Orange County doesn’t have to offer!

Most organizations have scholarships available, so don’t let the financials hold you back!

 

 

written by: Elizabeth Wylie