Durango Devo Blazes New Trails: Adapting for Autism
A large group of young kids walk their bikes to the top of a hill at Falls Creek, while various coaches graciously give words of encouragement. The kids are comfortable and fairly confident taking on the small portion of the trail, accepting all the challenges it has to offer.
The entourage of coaches and riders are part of a family-centered program known as Durango Devo, a non-profit organization that is notorious for inspiring and developing talented young riders in the biking community.
Each year, Devo offers junior and upper level programs, both noncompetitive and competitive. But this year, there will be a notable addition to the schedule. For the first time this fall, Devo will be offering a special needs program, inspired by a junior level team member with autism.
“Those [groups] range from having 10-20 kids in them, which is a bit overwhelming for kiddos with mental disabilities. So we opened a group to have less chaos and more personalized, special coaching,” Aubrey Volger, Junior Program Manager of Devo, said.
Devo is breaking new ground here in Durango, as an innovative way to include families in town with an obvious love for cycling and perhaps limited resources. To ensure success for these young cyclists, the Devo staff will include a skilled, licensed social worker as well as an assistant coach that personally has experienced the challenges of autism.
Although there are only four kids enrolled in the group for the Fall 2017 season, this program will “include families in our town’s growing cycling community who would otherwise not partake,” Volger said.
Since 2006, Devo’s role in the community has been shaped and molded by dedicated young riders, supportive parents, veteran coaches and upper-level youth that have returned as coaches themselves.
“It’s such a joy to see kids grow up in the program and be able to coach multiple siblings from the same family,” Volger said.
When it comes to Devo, the main goal for coaches is to “get kids stoked” on the phenomenal cycling culture in Durango, and it starts as young as you can imagine.
“[We] are a true developmental stair-step program. We can offer something for everyone, from a baby to a graduating high schooler,” Chad Cheeney, Co-Founder of DEVO, said.
Cheeney, and the program that he has co-founded, has created a one of a kind community in Durango, one that brings you back to your roots and inspires. Because when you glance down at a young rider, stumbling and struggling to stay on a push bike at Falls Creek, it’s likely you see the spitting image of yourself, just 10 years ago.