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Two's company: Tandem bike helps Max enjoy the outdoors

13 June 2017

It hasn’t always been the case, but bike rides are now a treasured family activity for Thom and Bronwyn Knox and their three children.

Nine year-old Max, the couple’s oldest son, lives with albinism and is legally blind which presented some challenges when it came to getting him to feel confident on the back of a bike.

“Going for a ride was something that was a bit stressful for Max,” Thom said.

“He was a bit wobbly on the bike and he had trouble picking up people or anything else that was coming his way. Often it wouldn’t be until the last second that he would see something and it just wasn’t something that he enjoyed.”

Rather than just put Max’s bike in the garage and move onto something else, the Knox family sought some assistance and with the support of Vision Australia they soon found a solution.

Around a year ago Max’s then occupational therapist delved into the world of bicycles to see what was available to help Max and the rest of the Knox family enjoy their outings. The idea of tandem bike appeared and ever since bike rides have become much more enjoyable.

Max and Thom on the tandem bike riding through the bush

“Erina who was our OT then did a heap of research into what bikes would be the best for us and managed to secure us some funding to get the bike and it’s just really changed the whole dynamic of going for a ride,” Thom said  

“It used to be such a stressful thing to do, but now it’s become a family outing that we all really enjoy. Going for a ride down to the park is now something Max looks forward to and we’ve started going on some longer rides as well.”

While Max sometimes makes the most of being at the back of the tandem bike – he’s been known to have the odd break and let Thom up front do all pedalling – the Knoxs said the rides have had other benefits for Max too.

“In some ways riding a bike is rite of passage for kids and it’s great that Max has that opportunity like everyone else. With him on the back of tandem he’s improved his balance and he’s now more composed when he has a go on his own bike.”

If Max does progress onto riding his own bike, the tandem bike is likely to be an important part of the Knox’s bike trips.

“Max’s younger brother Harry also lives with albinism, he’s a bit young at the moment for the tandem but when he gets a bit older I’m sure it will be something we use with him too.” Thom said.

While there has had to be some strategies put in place to support Max with things like riding a bike or going to school, Thom and Bronwyn said he has always been accepted for who he is and as International Albinism Awareness day is marked today they would hope that is the case for all people who live with albinism.

“We’ve never had any issues with Max, he’s always been happy to go and do things and everybody’s accepted him. His friends treat him the same as they would anybody else,” Thom said.

“He’s a just a normal kid and that’s how we need to think of people who live with albinism. They’re just as capable as doing what they want to do as anybody else is.

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