OCBC Cycle wants youth with special needs to hop on a bike

David Rudolph and his mother Clara Toh, who took part in the OCBC Cycle event last year, are looking forward to this year's edition. She says cycling makes David, who has autism, feel good about himself. The bank's cycling campaign now has a programm
David Rudolph and his mother Clara Toh, who took part in the OCBC Cycle event last year, are looking forward to this year's edition. She says cycling makes David, who has autism, feel good about himself. The bank's cycling campaign now has a programme specifically for youngsters with special needs.ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Before being diagnosed with autism, David Rudolph's behaviour was disruptive to other children around him at his daycare centre.

His mother 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 complete it, 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 Genevieve Chua said his love of cycling has helped to change him for the better as he becomes calmer: "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."

Of the 44 young people in this year's programme, 36 are beneficiaries of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore and SG Enable, while the rest are beneficiaries of The Spastics Association of Hong Kong. Participants include 11-year-old Chloe Alcantara, who has autism spectrum disorder, and Titus Lim, 16, who has Kabuki syndrome - a disorder that 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 this weekend 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: www.ocbccycle.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2018, with the headline 'OCBC Cycle wants youth with special needs to hop on a bike'. Print Edition | Subscribe