Sunderland school gets adaptive tricycle

  • Kohen Petrizzi-Phillips, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Sunderland Elementary School, rides an adaptive tricycle in the halls of the school. The trike, available to all students, was purchased for $2,000 following public donations. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2018 1:13:31 PM

SUNDERLAND — Jessica Callahan made an observation as a class of kindergartners and their educators strolled down a hallway at Sunderland Elementary School.

“This would be anxiety for him,” she said. “He would probably stand in the corner until everybody passed. Whereas on the bike, he’s able to just continue. That’s because he’s thinking about the bike.”

Callahan, an instructional assistant, was referring to 12-year-old Kohen Petrizzi-Phillips, a sixth-grader. Petrizzi-Phillips is a special needs student who enjoys riding the school’s new adaptive tricycle purchased for roughly $2,000 generated through public donations. The adult-size trike is available to all students, though priority is given to about a dozen based on their specific diagnoses.

“It opens an opportunity for other students to meet students with special needs who would be more reclusive or would keep to themselves more, to be out in the community,” Callahan said.

She said the trike opens up a world of beneficial opportunities and social interactions for students with differing needs or severe anxiety. Even going into a hallway filled with peers can be difficult for these students, she said.

Callahan raised the money through, a crowdfunding website available to every public school in the United States. She learned of the site from a colleague who wanted to raise money for rain boots for her kindergartners. Callahan and Principal Benjamin Barshefsky said contributions poured in from 20 donors, made up of parents, friends, staff members and local businesses. The Sunderland PTO donated $500 toward the project. Other donations ranged from $10 to $150.

Barshefsky said he was excited when he heard about Callahan’s plan.

“Part of our student population has special needs, like any school. And it’s about providing our students with as many opportunities as possible to experience success,” he said in his office. “It’s no mystery that physical activity improves our lifestyles, builds self-confidence, self-esteem, keeps us healthy, and this is just another avenue to go about that.

“It’s a form of adapted physical education,” he continued, “and at times, students with special needs, from a physical activity standpoint ... the number of opportunities are not necessarily as prevalent as those for their typical peers.”

The trike — a Triaid Tracker — is fire engine red and has a kickstand and hand brakes. Callahan said its size makes it sturdy and the three wheels allow for better balance, which is helpful for many students with special needs. The trike can also be adjusted so smaller children can use it. Callahan said Petrizzi-Phillips has learned to navigate with the trike well. She said it has helped with his depth perception, peripheral vision and coordination. The school also has a helmet for riders.

Barshefsky said the trike is a long-term investment, as care and maintenance will keep it functional for many years.

Callahan said a sixth-grader last year had a personal tricycle he brought to school for students to use. But the trike left with him when he completed sixth grade and moved on to Frontier Regional School. This inspired Callahan to try to get one for the school.

“I saw it was something that a lot of the kids were using,” she said in Barshefsky’s office.

Barshefsky said the trike will come in handy for the fall and spring Walk and Roll to School Days, which are part of the national Safe Routes to School Program. He said the spring event has not yet been scheduled, though it will likely be in May or June. In the fall, he said, 230 students, parents and faculty walked to school by walking or taking bicycles, scooters or roller blades.

“With each event, the turnout grows and grows,” Barshefsky said.

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