Bank to help disabled youngsters pedal towards a brighter future

Ms Clara Toh and her son David Rudolph, who has autism, will be taking part in this year's OCBC Cycle event. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

SINGAPORE - Before being diagnosed with autism, David Rudolph would prove a disruption to other children around him at his daycare centre.

His mother Ms Clara Toh began seeking treatment for his condition and outlets for his boundless energy, one of which was cycling - an activity he still enjoys as a 15-year-old.

Last year the pair entered the 23km Straits Times Ride, which forms part of the annual OCBC Cycle event, and although they were unable to finish they are determined to try again this year.

The bank's cycling campaign has launched a programme specifically for young people, like David, who have special needs.

As well as teaching them how to ride a bike, it will also give them the chance to take part in a community event.

"I think David feels relaxed and free when he is cycling. He feels good about himself," said Ms Toh.

David's relationship development intervention consultant, Ms Genevieve Chua, said his love of cycling has helped to change him for the better: "His awareness of others has definitely improved as in a regulated state he will connect and engage with people more.

"In the past, he would run off and not check if people are following him. Now, when he sees people not moving, he will stop. He is now thinking of others and what their preferences are."

Out of the 44 youths in the programme, 36 are beneficiaries of MINDS and SG Enable Ltd, while another eight are beneficiaries of The Spastics Association of Hong Kong (SAHK).

Participants include 11-year-old Chloe Alcantara, who has autism spectrum disorder, and Titus Lim, 16, who has Kabuki syndrome - a disorder which affects many parts of the body.

OCBC started the programme in 2015 and has since helped more than 60 underprivileged children, although this year it will only be for youngsters with disabilities.

The initiative, called Teach A Special Needs Youth To Cycle, will be part of this year's OCBC Cycle event which takes place next weekend (May 5 and 6) at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, head of group corporate communications at OCBC Bank, said: "While special needs individuals may suffer from different degrees of developmental disabilities, there are many higher-functioning ones who have the required motor skills to cycle and we want to empower them to do so."

Registration for OCBC Cycle 2018 is now closed but the bank will host its first cycling-focused weekend market from Friday to Sunday at the OCBC Arena Hall 1.

For more details, visit:

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.