Jiraffe Case Study – Iris’ Story

Iris is 11 years old and she loves being active! She creates a happy and bubbly environment wherever she goes, and she loves hydrotherapy and rebound therapy in particular.

Iris has Cerebral Palsy, equivalent to GMFCS level V, and is affected by high tone and weakness throughout her body. She is also affected by hip displacement in her right leg and is awaiting reconstructive surgery for this in October 2023. This has made movement and weight bearing challenging for Iris, and standing and walking in particular have become difficult tasks in recent years.

Iris attends MOVE centre of Excellence Watergate School in London, where the MOVE programme principles are utilised to teach independent movement to its pupils.

This supportive and dynamic environment keeps movement at the heart of education, regardless of disability and movement difficulties. The school acquired a selection of Rifton adaptive tricycles in recent years to provide another opportunity for physical activity, movement and mobility to its already diverse Programme.

This has meant Iris has found a new passion and activity she loves – cycling!

Iris has started using the tricycle at school in May last year and she uses it regularly each week. Iris initially had difficulty pedalling the tricycle by herself and needed active assistance of the school or therapy staff to move forwards. However, with the opportunity for repeated practice Iris has begun to pedal independently – learning a new skill, whilst also exercising and strengthening her lower limbs. Iris is now working hard on her independent steering and turning. The adaptive tricycle has ensured that Iris is keeping mobile despite her difficulties with walking and standing. It will hopefully give her a better chance for maximal functional recovery after her surgery.

Move Coordinator at the school Katie Chapman was integral to the inclusion of cycling programme at the school, and has seen first hand the benefits it has brought to Iris’ and other pupils daily routines:

“Iris loves using the tricycle. She loves to move and keep active and the tricycle has been essential to keeping up her activity levels in recent months. We have a lot of success stories with the new trikes, they have made a big difference to a lot of children. We absolutely love them!”

Here are some of the features of the Rifton Adaptive Tricycle that help support Iris’ movement:

  • The harness and trunk support system help to maintain a stable and upright sitting posture for cycling and steering
  • The abductor helps reduce the adduction posturing at Iris’s right lower limb maintaining a more effective and neutral pedalling pattern.
  • The active assist pedals and foot straps ensure secure positioning of the feet and helped Iris to learn the reciprocal pedalling movement for independent movement

Iris and the MOVE principles:

  • Opportunity: Iris was given a new opportunity to move and explore in the adaptive tricycle when over forms of mobility and weightbearing were becoming difficult
  • Motivation: Iris loves to move so needed little motivation for this, but cycling is a fun, essential skill that brought a new hobby into Iris’ life that she could enjoy with her friends
  • Progress: Iris has started to pedal independently and is now working hard on her steering ability.

Iris, the Rifton Adaptive Tricycle and the ICF/F-Words (1,2):

  • Fitness – Iris is partaking in regular physical activity at a time where she is at risk of being very sedentary. Regular physical activity can improve cardiorespiratory, cardiometabolic, muscular and bone health.
  • Function – The tricycle has ensured Iris has kept mobile at a time where movement has become more difficult. She has started to pedal independently and is learning a fun new skill!
  • Friends – Iris can now cycle with her friends as part of the cycling programme at school.
  • Family – Iris’ family are so happy that she is keeping mobile and has been reassuring for them to see her continue to partake in enjoyable activities.
  • Fun – Cycling is fun! Iris loves to the ride the tricycle and she loves being active.
  • Future – Iris will keep working hard on her cycling skills to become more independent. The tricycle will help to keep her physically active and mobile whilst awaiting surgery and this rehabilitation may even positively impact her recovery.


1) World Health Organization. (2001) International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).
2) Rosenbaum, P. & Gorter J. The ‘F-words’ in childhood disability: I swear this is how we should think! Child: care, health and development. 2011; 38(4): 457–46


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