Bikes Boost Kids with Special Needs

Children with autism and Down's Syndrome learn how to ride a bicycle at a camp run by researchers at the University of Michigan.
Children with autism and Down's Syndrome learn how to ride a bicycle at a camp run by researchers at the University of Michigan.
CBS

Learning how to ride a bike is a rite of passage that's often out of reach for some kids.

Less than 20 percent of kids with autism - and just 10 percent of those with Down's Syndrome - learn to ride a bike, according to the University of Michigan.

CBS News Correspondent Seth Doane reports an annual week-long camp at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor helps kids face their fears and lets researchers learn how success here can translate to other parts of their lives.

Learn More about "Lose the Training Wheels" Organization

Learn More about the University of Michigan program

"It gives you a way to become more independent, to become more social," Michigan researcher Dale Ulrich said. "Those are the two characteristics that children with Down's Syndrome and autism need to improve on."

When they first arrive, many of the kids don't have the balance or the strength to ride a bike, but they do have the will. Developing that will is the point of this program.

"I wanted to learn. Now I did," said Lydia Brattin.

That leaves her dad, Vincent Brattin, beaming.

"Bike riding is one of the basic childhood skills," said Brattin. "It's just another one of the things that everybody - quotation marks - 'everyone normal' does."

Caryn Pack Ivey wondered why children with disabilities - like her son Jared - are often underestimated.

"Some people are only interested in seeing children with disabilities learn how to take care of themselves and do laundry and wash dishes," Ivey said. "And there is a lot more to life than doing laundry and washing dishes."

After watching her son ride for the first time, his mother Caryn said "it was emotional."

Jared did not need to say a thing. His smile said it all.

More than three-quarters of the 80 campers were up and riding by the end of the week.

"I'm going to have to get back into it myself," said Vincent Brattin.
"It'll do me some good."

Sometimes we all need a little extra encouragement.