Everyone CAN Ride

When a parent hears for the first time that their child has a disability you can only imagine the heart break that they must have. They think to themselves, was it something that they did to cause this, they start to blame each other because they want to try and find out which side of the family that this came from, or you have the parents that are perfectly fine with it and will ignore this fact because they already love their child unconditionally. Eventually both kinds of parents will begin to live with the disability just as their son or daughter has to because they are the parents.

What really baffles me about society is that the norm is to assume that people that have a disability, in this case a mental illness are different form everyone other “normal” person that they have ever met. We are prone to believe that they should be coddled for their entire life and that we have to treat them nicer because of their condition, but why do we do this? Do we feel bad for them? Do we do it to feel better about ourselves? The answer is dependent on the person that is working with the person that has a disability, but the moral of this is that the actions that society tells us to make is completely disrespectful and wrong.

How would you react when someone was treating you like you were dumb and didn’t understand anything all the time? how would you feel if someone constantly helped you out and you never got to open a door or talk for yourself? The answer is that it would feel degrading and you’d be upset! No one likes to be treated this way, so why does society keep letting this happen to people with disabilities? Its because we expect so much less than what disabled individuals are actually capable of and thats how we were taught to think since the beginning of medicine. People who were “crazy” were locked up or hospitalized, treated poorly, and thought of as a deficit to society. Though society has made huge changes to the disabled community there are still so many actions that need to be taken place because every person should be treated equal and like a human being that has feelings.

This summer I am apart of a Non Profit program called PEAC (Programs to educate all cyclists) and we empower those with disabilities through cycling. This allows them to get school, work, the grocery store, and most of all have fun. The first thing that people say when they hear what I do is ” thats amazing, but it must be hard.” Yes, my job can be rough at times but they think this because I said that I work with people that have disabilities. If i were to have said that I help people learn to ride bikes, that is not the first thing that the people that I talk to about my program would have thought, and this is what society has done to us. We have put a stigma on mental and physical illness that makes everyone think the worst.

There is a statistic that says 80% of children with Down Syndrome will never ride a bike and 100% of them will never be able to balance a two wheel bike. This is a complete hoax because every week I work with people that have down syndrome and most of them can ride two wheels and some others are almost there and we are working on pedaling. proving that this was a statistic based on bias and not actual fact.

I found an article online that talks about teaching a child/adult that has autism how to ride a bike and the whole article degrades people that have autism. From the beginning of the article it says that it can be hard, it can be difficult, and thatchy may not under stand how to do it because of their illness. Is it not difficult for every kid to learn how to ride a bike? how many times did you fall over when you were learning? How many hours did you practice before you were able to ride? This happens for everyone, not just people with disabilities and PEAC proves this every single day.

The explanatory model is the easiest to connect to mental and physical illness because it is a biological problem but the social aspect of it is completely cloudy because it really depends on the individual. Yes they may be socially awkward and have a hard time doing certain things, but don’t we all? This makes the stigma against disabilities stronger rather than making it weaker and trying to destroy it completely.

I know that not every mental or physical illness is the same and yes some people may have a harder time riding, but this shouldn’t be a barrier that we put on someone that has a disability. Not just for riding a bicycle, but for everything else.

We believe everyone can ride, and I hope after reading this some of you will start to feel the same way.

Duncan, Stuart. Riding a Bike, How Can Autism Make that More Difficult? 2010. http://www.stuartduncan.name/autism/riding-a-bike-how-can-autism-make-that-more-difficult/.

3 thoughts on “Everyone CAN Ride

  1. Hi Katie , I enjoyed reading your post. I completely agree with you that we smother and coddle people with disease. We simply don’t believe they have the capability to do things themselves. Perhaps we also do it because it makes us feel better and less guilty. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be when people try to help you with every little thing and you don’t even need help. We definitely don’t expect much from people who are different than the “norm”, although we really should. I think that it’s great you are working with the non-profit program PEAC! I did do some volunteer work in high school educating children on mental illness and making it seem less “scary and different” to them. I have also had some experience teaching autistic kids and it can very frustrating for them when people “baby” them. They have a higher level of understanding than most of the other kids, they just need the material to be introduced to them differently. This doesn’t mean they are dumb or slow, they just see things differently than other kids. Overall I really enjoyed your post, I think you make a really good point about how we treat mentally ill individuals and that needs to change.

  2. Great post, and I think it is awesome that you are working this summer to teach people how to ride. That’s really cool. I liked the fact that in your blog post you talked so much about this very real world example and the explanatory model that most Americans take surrounding mental illness. You touched on how people tend to feel about it and how we react to mental illness in our actions toward others. Growing up in the United States I definitely see and understand what you are talking about. I would be very interested to see examples of explanatory models that people with Down Syndrome or individuals who are affected by ASD use. This is just me wondering out loud and I don’t know what the “right” answer is, but I would be willing to guess that people who have had a mental disability their entire life have a very different way of understanding the disability that they live with than we do. Additionally like you said about how frustrating it would be to always have someone helping when you don’t need the help, I’m sure that the differing explanatory models have created problems in the past and continue to because of the different understandings. I think it is awesome that you are taking the time to teach people how to ride. It seems very empowering and I’m glad you shared that with us as a class.

  3. Hi Katie! Great job this week with your post. Clearly this week’s topic is something that is very relatable to you. I found it hit close to home for me as well. My best friend’s brother has epilepsy and along with that he has some cognitive functioning issues, it is apparent that Drew is “different” to everyone around him, but that does not make him less of a person. I have had to privilege of watching Drew grow up and that little boy has been through more in his 14 years than some people do their whole lives. He is truly a bright spot in my life and always treats everyone with the respect they deserve and always is able to make someone smile. It is terrible to see when he is not respected in the same manner. Kids in middle school are mean; it worries me that there would be kids that would take advantage of him and other kids that are more vulnerable.
    I think your work with PEAC is amazing! I had a friend do something similar teaching children to ride bikes and it is such an accomplishment for the child as well as the parents. I like that your program helps people get a sense of independence. That is awesome that it challenges what statistics say. A person is so much more than a statistic and should be treated individually. These generalizations discourage people from even trying to accomplish things sometimes and can have a damaging effect on confidence. It is great there are organizations out there trying to change that.

Leave a Reply