Scarlett Ferguson is a fun-loving, 10-year-old girl who loves to read, sing and act. She’s done voiceover work and has been in commercials, YouTube episodes and a TV show.
“She’s got big dreams and big goals for herself,” Scarlett’s mother Keri said. “We’re just doing our part to help her reach them and achieve them.”
Keri said that when Scarlett was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy when she was 18 months old and a non-specific brain injury when she was six months old, their family didn’t know what to expect.
“We were told she may not walk, or talk, or be potty trained. There were a lot of limitations and ideas of what she probably wouldn’t be able to do,” Keri said. “We didn’t really have any cheerleaders or anybody saying ‘But maybe she’ll be able to do this’ or ‘Maybe she’ll be able to do that’. There was no positive stance on anything.”
Scarlett’s cerebral palsy mostly affects her extremities, her legs more so than her arms. Her core is weak and is somewhat disconnected from her ability to stand, walk or take reciprocal steps. Because of this, Scarlett uses a wheelchair full-time and relies on support and assistance for most tasks.
“And that’s where the bike has come into play because she doesn’t really have a lot of avenues for exercise or activity,” Keri said. “The bike is something she’s able to do and she’s able to pedal the bike independently.”
The first time Scarlett tried a Freedom Concepts adaptive bike at her therapy center, she pedaled it independently.
“It shocked all of us, none of us thought she would be able to do that,” Keri said. “It was one of those things where none of us had the expectation for her to be able to do it, and she did it so easily.”
Keri said Scarlett’s success with the bike was an inspiration to get her to try other things.
“We thought ‘Okay, well she can do these things, could she try that? How would she navigate this?’” Keri said. “It was kind of a door opener.”
After hearing about Scarlett’s progress on the bike, her preschool bought an adaptive bike for her to use. However once Scarlett left the school, the bike stayed there, and she no longer had access to it. Through family and friends Keri was able to crowdfund their own Freedom Concepts DCP adaptive bike in 2015. Six years later, they’re trying to decide which Freedom Concepts model to get next.
“We’re going to donate the one that’s too small to her therapy center to use,” Keri said. “They serve a large population of children with disabilities, so hopefully those kids will get some benefits from the bike, too.”
Because of COVID-19, most of Scarlett’s usual therapies and activities such as adaptive horseback riding lessons, adaptive dance lessons, theatre lessons, and her physical and occupational therapy sessions have been canceled or moved to virtual settings. Keri said one of the only activities they have been able to do has been going for bike rides.
“It’s a safe, socially-distanced activity we can do as a family while wearing our masks to maintain health and wellness, especially for Scarlett who hasn’t been able to access any other therapy or activities,” Keri said.
Scarlett has a twin brother and a younger brother, and riding their bikes at the park or the beach is something they can all do together.
“The bike is an equalizer,” Keri said. “It’s an activity where she feels equal to her peers, and doesn’t feel so special or so different.”
In addition to the social benefits of Scarlett’s adaptive bike, Keri said they have seen huge therapeutic benefits from it as well. Last August, Scarlett had a major surgery to rotate both of her femurs. Her femurs were broken above her knee and rotated, then hardware was put in to keep them in place while they healed. One of the sites failed and Scarlett’s leg rejected the hardware, so she had a second surgery to repair it.
Within two weeks after the surgery, Scarlett’s surgeon told Keri to get Scarlett on her bike to start moving her legs and regain some flexibility.
“It was very slow and gentle, us just pushing her,” Keri said. “Within a couple of weeks, Scarlett was able to pedal around the block again.”
Scarlett’s therapy center has been closed a lot due to COVID-19, so Scarlett hasn’t been able to attend many physical therapy sessions since her surgery.
“When she went last week for her most recent therapy session, her physical therapist was shocked at how much strength she’s gained,” Keri said. “And honestly all that strength is because she’s on her bike two or three days a week riding a couple of laps around the block. She’s really developed a lot more strength in her legs as a result.”
Click here to learn more about Freedom Concepts adaptive bikes.