In our quest for fun weekend and holiday activities, Ben’s tricycle has been a godsend. We are constantly aiming for variety in Ben’s life; things to do that aren’t us reading him books or watching an ipad, activities that get him out of his wheelchair.
The trike offers all of the above, whilst also allowing a rare opportunity for Ben and Max to do the same thing at the same time and pace. Both boys have got orange bikes/trikes, and we have just hit the moment when Max has worked out how to ride his balance bike for longer than 2 minutes without demanding we carry it. Meanwhile, Ben has hit his stride on the trike.
This means we can spend fun mornings in the park. Ben is happier, and more active, than he would be if we were pushing him in his wheelchair (and strangely less scared of dogs). The boys like racing each other, and I feel like we’re a normal family. Our boys are learning to ride their bikes together, on sunny days, in parks full of daffodils. We’re living the dream!
We’re not the only ones who like the trike – people smile at us as we pass, much more than they would if Ben was in his wheelchair. I think a big orange tricycle gives people a way in – even legendarily unfriendly Londoners find themselves saying hello. One woman asked if she could take a photo.
We bought Ben’s trike last year. We got advice from various physios and had trials with two companies. There is no statutory (e.g. NHS) funding for equipment like this, and they are really expensive, so we took our time deciding what kind would work best.
The trike we decided on, made by a company called Theraplay, can be parent-operated from behind, so Ben can ride the trike normally with us pushing and steering. This allows it to be as normal a riding experience as possible, but with us doing most of the work. Ben chose to have an orange one.
Whenever we consider buying big pieces of kit like this there’s a tension between enthusiasm and caution. Enthusiasm for the possibility of this being The Thing That Ben Loves, that he can use easily and effectively, that he is able to operate independently and generally makes all our lives brilliant and fun. Caution because we’re about to spend £1400 on something that Ben might not like, might not be able to use, and then we’ll have to work out how and where to store a huge white elephant and manage our disappointment.
This time the gamble has paid off. We have been slowly increasing the distance and speed that we push Ben. He now likes us going really fast. So far, we have been doing all the work – Ben’s feet are forced round as we push the trike forward, but we might be on the cusp of him being able to do some of it himself.
He finds holding on to the handle pretty tricky, but he can sometimes push the foot pedals round on his own now. We still hold the handle in order to steer for him but for a couple of metres we aren’t pushing at all – all of the forward momentum is Ben on his own.
This is the moment that I really hoped might happen, but was worried might not actually materialise. To pedal the trike, Ben needs to control his legs separately and time it right. It is difficult for him but, like so much that he does, he is trying really, really hard. Well done that boy! Well done that trike!