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Child pedalling on his bike.

Innovation and collaboration keep kids pedalling

While there have been many changes since the adapted equipment loan program started at Holland Bloorview over 20 years ago, no one could have predicted the latest shift to outdoor bike clinics—least of all Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Kristen English. 

“When COVID-19 hit, the program was on hold for a few months,” Kristen says. “This was at a time when it’s usually quite busy, as we start to get requests for summer equipment like bikes.”

Typically, Kristen and her team will loan everything from adapted bikes in the summer to skating aides in the winter. Any Holland Bloorview client can borrow this adapted equipment free of charge for up to two weeks.

But, prior to getting access to the equipment, clients and families usually have an in-person appointment with Kristen and other members of their care team to make sure that the equipment meets their needs.

“I often will collaborate with a client’s physiotherapist to make sure we're tailoring, not just the set up and fit of the equipment, but also the way that they use it so that they're going to have success and be safe,” adds Kristen.

With the onset of COVID-19, the program’s usual operations were no longer possible. Yet, like many families across the country, Holland Bloorview families saw biking as a fun activity to do while maintaining physical distancing. To meet the increased demand for bikes, and with safety in mind, Kristen and her team began hosting outdoor bike clinics.

“This was a really important service and needed to figure out how to operate while ensuring the safety of everybody involved,” says Kristen. “We now offer outdoor bike clinics every few weeks. Families sign up for a time slot, we prepare in advance what equipment they might need and then we trial the equipment outside. We also use screening, masking, and thorough disinfecting procedures to ensure safety during and in-between appointments.”

Since the program began in June, 40 clients and families have been able to get back to the sports they love, with many adding that biking was the first physical activity they’ve been able to participate in this summer. More than one grateful parent has joked about just how much their child loves their bike.

“He loved it so much, I think I will have to sneak it out of the house when we have to bring it back,” said one parent.

Kristen is already looking forward to the next bike clinic.

“We’ve collaborated with people throughout the hospital to make sure that families are still able to access this service at a time when they need it more than ever,” she says. “It’s been a really positive experience for everybody involved.”

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