New bike track for North Geelong to boost wellbeing for children with disability

Jacko On Bike

A new bike track is to be built at Gateways Support Services’ North Geelong site, thanks to the support of the Give Where You Live Foundation.

The bike track will give children with disabilities the opportunity to learn to ride a trike or push bike in a safe environment and supported by therapists.

As well as teaching them to ride, the skills development program aims to reduce anxiety, build resilience and improve mental health in children with autism and/or intellectual disabilities through physical activity.

The Give Where You Live grant of almost $10,000 announced in June will fund building of the track, as well as the purchase of several trikes and push bikes.

Gateways Support Services CEO Stephanie Gunn says participation is sport and physical recreation is substantially lower for people with a disability and this grant would help shift the balance.

‘Gateways has observed, and statistics back it up, that even lower levels of participation in physical activities is evident for people with an intellectual disability and complex behaviours, as participation in public spaces can pose a challenge for themselves and to other users of the facilities,’ Ms Gunn says.

‘By creating appropriate and safe opportunities for our clients at our new Thompson Road, North Geelong facility, we aim to address some of this inequality in health and social benefits and improve their wellbeing and quality of life.’

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that participation in sports for people with an intellectual disability is 42 per cent versus 70 per cent of the general population.

Gateways Support Services’ new multi-purpose facility in North Geelong will be open to all abilities, ensuring children participating in the bike riding skills development program will be able to achieve their goals in an inclusive, community-based way.

The program is among a range of skill development programs to be offered at the site to build life skills as well as physical and mental health.

‘From experience and research we know that engaging people with intellectual disabilities, complex behaviours and autism in sports and physical activities can reduce their anxiety levels and challenging behaviours and have a calming effect,’ Ms Gunn says.

‘This results in the improvement of their quality and enjoyment of life and ability to engage in other life and social skills development programs, enabling them to thrive.’

Give Where You Live’s Kerry Farrance and Jennifer Speed recently inspected the site of the bike track and enjoyed a tour of the Thompson Rd facility, saying they were excited to watch the development of an ‘extraordinary space for our community.’

Give Where You Live Gateways Support Services Bike Track before shot
Give Where You Live’s Jennifer Speed joins Gateways Support Services’ Arnie Bax inspecting the site of the future bike track.

The securely fenced bike track, to be completed by October, will cover a large area, with directional roads, parking spaces, give-way and stop signs and a roundabout.

Parents and carers would also be able to book out the bike track to practice in a secure environment outside of therapy sessions.

Ms Gunn thanked the Give Where You Live Foundation for supporting Gateways Support Services vision of creating inclusive, community-based spaces for people with disabilities to achieve their goals.

Gateways Support Services is a registered charity. If you’d like to share our vision and help us provide support for children and adults with disabilities and their families, to maximise their quality of life, donate today!