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Dane Christianson's eyes lit up when he received a shiny medal for successfully learning how to ride a bike.

Five days — 75 minutes per day — later and the training wheels have come off for Dane, 7, who has autism.

Designer Genes of North Dakota partnered with iCan Shine, a nonprofit that hosts specialized bike camps for individuals with disabilities. With the help of adaptive equipment, trained professionals and lots of volunteers, by the end of the camp, about 80 percent of riders can successfully ride on their own.

“It’s amazing; it's awesome how good he has done,” said Dane's mom, Sara Christianson. "That just an hour and 15 minutes a day, (and) he’s riding a bike."

The bike camp, which started in Bismarck in 2012, was held Monday through Friday at the Nishu Bowman Archery Complex in Bismarck. This year, 26 riders, ages 7-19, signed up, according to Roxane Romanick, executive director of Designer Genes.

The riders start off on specialized roller bikes that, instead of a back wheel, they have a roller that look similar to a rolling pin. Pete Batallion, a bike technician with iCan Shine, said these rollers help with stability.

The iCan Bike program was developed by Dr. Richard E. Klein, a former mechanical engineering professor, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Today, the program exists across the country.

As the rider get more stable, they just fix the bikes and put on different types of rollers.

"They begin to develop the balance reaction, versus training wheels where you just lean into the training wheels," said camp director Heather Lundeen.

On Wednesday, the riders were launched on two wheels, and began riding outside on Thursday. Each day, volunteers, or "spotters," and family members were present to help the riders become independent, which may involve trailing behind the rider as they take off.

On Friday, the students graduated with family members and the volunteers, and a "real biker," Tom Warner, of the Our Place Motorcycle Club, brought in his motorcycle for the bikers to climb on.

Emily Savickis, a floor supervisor with iCan Shine, encouraged parents to continue letting their children ride their bikes several times a week, even in the winter, so they don't lose any progress they made.

Dane left graduation excited to show his siblings his new skills on his bright-blue bike.

"(The volunteers) had me try to run with (Dane) earlier," Sara Christianson said, adding she could barely keep up with him. "We'll see, because I think he's going to want to ride his bike as soon as he gets home."

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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