For the second consecutive summer, William Floyd occupational therapist Ed Diaz and a dedicated group of volunteers worked with students for five sessions to help them achieve their dream of learning how to ride a bicycle by themselves.
Started by Mr. Diaz in the summer of 2014, the program is designed to help students achieve a range of goals leading up to safely riding a bicycle including learning how to balance, pedal efficiently, correctly maneuver bike handles and master turns.
“Each child develops at his or her own pace,” said Mr. Diaz. “The main goal of the program is to instill a sense of confidence in all of those who participate.”
In an effort to expand the program and reach more students in its second year, Mr. Diaz reached out to his colleagues across the William Floyd School District asking for donations of bicycles, helmets and training wheels, as those participating last year had to provide the equipment themselves. The outpouring of support that he received enabled the program to effectively serve 20 students per session each week. It also resulted in a boost of volunteers including teachers, teaching assistants, a security guard, a school nurse, college students and more.
For Christine Courtney of Mastic, whose 15-year-old son Zackary has been trying for years to learn to ride his bike, this program has been a godsend. After running into Mr. Diaz (who served as Zackary’s occupational therapist in elementary school) at a local store, Mrs. Courtney explained how Zackary was still having trouble mastering his bike riding skills. So Mr. Diaz encouraged her to bring him to the program. Then, in just two short weeks of working with Mr. Diaz and his individual trainer, Frank Brust Sr. (a William Floyd security guard who volunteered during his lunch break), Zackary was riding by himself.
“It was amazing to see Zackary accomplish this so fast,” said Mrs. Courtney. “Even though it’s something so small that many parents might take for granted, it means the world to him and us,” she said. “When a child connects with that one special educator, that child will do anything to achieve their goal; and for Zackary, Ed Diaz is that educator. He truly brings out the best in his students.”
And now, thanks to the bike program, Zackary can ride with his sister, Mackenzee, a 2015 William Floyd High School graduate, and other members of his family, like he has always wanted to do.
“I believe most children are capable of learning how to ride a bike,” said Mr. Diaz. “For some it will come relatively quickly; for others, it will be more of a slow and steady pace,” he said. “For all it will take time, patience and dedication. It is our goal to support them along the way and celebrate and embrace each of their accomplishments.”
Mr. Diaz added that the bike program also received assistance from the Nassau Suffolk Autism Society of America, an organization that donated bike handles and additional training wheels to help serve more students. He started a pilot of the bike program as part of the integrated occupational therapy curriculum during this year’s special education summer school. This pilot expansion provided students with the additional practice time necessary to improve their chances of success. Mr. Diaz plans to begin introducing bike riding into selected classes during the school year as part of the integrated occupational therapy program.
Additional program volunteers include: Frank Brust Sr., Katey Brust, Susan Clancy, Carmella Currao, Susan Dubois, Doreen Gillin, Shawn Hainey, Susan Hutnick, Penelope Kane, Donna Kilmer, Gracie Le, Maureen Mackenzie, Jennifer Mayhew, Jeannie Murphy, Trish Nagle, Amy Nardi, Joshua Parez, Shelley Peasley, Lisa Pedota, Barbara Piazzola, Toni Ann Powell, Brian Savage, Andrew Schiavo, Dawn Sperandio, Liana Spiciarich, Kerry Sullivan and Joshua Young.