Balancing Act

Brendan Today, six-year old Brendan visited me and I’m sure glad he made the move from Toronto to the Dallas area so I could be his coach today.  All smiles, but a little nervous.  I have many tricks for getting kids to ride and some key ones revolve around balance.  Brendan was a bit shaky at first, but was a quick learner.  One of my tricks may have been more essential for him than for others.  I learned after Brendan mastered my class and rode very steadily (and stopped, started, and turned), that he is deaf in one ear.  His mom wondered if that could affect his ability to balance on the bike.

Initially I thought it wouldn’t, as he learned to walk with this issue.  Although, I wasn’t there for that.  Perhaps it did affect his balance at first and he overcame it.  I did a little bit of research afterwards to learn more about hearing loss and balance.  Balance depends on nerve signals from three systems–eyes, legs/torso, and inner ear balance organs–that comprise our vestibular system.  These nerve signals, which go to the brain, help us stay upright.  Although studies show as many as 30% of deaf people may have balance problems, I’m still not sure about those with one deaf ear. 

If there is some challenging connection, I told his mom in my follow-up email that I don’t think it will be an issue for Brendan going forward.  I think we triggered that part of the brain that needs to be “turned on” for balance on a bike.  Nice to know my tricks are useful beyond just the standard challenge of overcoming the fears of riding.

My favorite part of this lesson (which seemed to go very quickly as we raced against the threatening weather):  Just as Brendan was riding without my direct help (only one finger on his back to let him know I was still “helping”), he said, “It feels like I’m riding my bike now.”  To which I responded, “That’s because you are.”

Congrats Brendan!

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