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Last year for Buddy’s birthday we wanted to get him a trike. He was turning 2, could not sit up on his own, could not press into his legs, and in fact did not use his legs much. I thought it would be great if we could get him upright and moving through the world at his level so that he could engage more.

When I first started looking I was astounded by the cost of special needs trikes. The least expensive was $350, the most expensive $5000, but on average they were $1000. Just the little contraption that helps the kids keep their foot on the pedal was $80. It was time to get creative. Luckily there are some interesting options out there for younger riders and I was able to find a good one and adapt it. Here is how…

First I started with the radio Flyer 4 in 1 for $99, which has the following features as listed on their website:

·  Removable wrap around tray with cup holder to protect your child
·  Secure 3-point harness (removable)
·  Adult steer & stroll height adjustable push handle (removable)
·  Switches from pedals to foot rests (read lockable, this comes in handy later)
·  Comfortable headrest provides neck support (removable)
·  Adjustable grow-with-me seat
·  Unique stroller-style canopy with UV protection (removable)
·  Covered bin for parent or child storage
·  Quiet ride tires
·  Sturdy steel frame
(note: no brakes, I decided no brakes was better than the untrustworthy brakes some bikes offered according to reviews.)

Then I made the following adaptions to the bike:

1.       I took off the harness and high back because his therapist wanted him to do the work of balancing rather than learning to trust the bike to do it for him. This will not be applicable in every case.

2.       I installed the front wheel backwards. I did this because when you push the bike with the front wheel unlocked, it draws the pedals around and I wanted the bike to give him the sense of alternating movement. Later when he is able to do more work pedaling, I will turn the front wheel back around so that he has to push to move the bike.

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3.       I cut a small piece of no slip pad to set under him on the seat to help him sit without sliding. (I store it in the trunk with the scarf coming up.)

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4.       I went to a thrift store and found Teva sandals that are a good 5 sizes larger than his shoes ($3) and zip tied them to the pedal. In this way I can simply slide his foot, shoe and all, into the larger shoe and Velcro it into place. There are a few different configurations that work when attaching the sandal, so check with your therapist about best positioning.

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5.       Because his hips tend to flare I used a scarf to tie a figure 8 around his legs and the bike, tight enough to help pull his legs center, but loose enough for him to move to pedal.

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And off we go. In the beginning I started out with the pedals locked as foot rests. This gave him time to organize his body sitting on the bike. After a bit I would unlock the wheels and move slowly so he could work out what his legs were doing. If he got too tired, or I needed to move faster, I would just lock the wheels again. Now that we have been doing this for a year, he can go for an hour with the wheels unlocked and at a steady gate for me. Soon, it will be time to turn the wheel around and let him do more work.

This has been my favorite find/adaption. He loves it so much! He gave his first clear “more” sign when I stopped to chat with the neighbor. He reaches out to touch all the plants and fences. He sits up tall and really looks around to take in the world, and all for under $115. Not bad.