Meet Nickolas…

This is Nickolas. When you might see him on his quad, dressed in his bright yellow gear, you would assume he’s just like any other 10 year old boy, riding his quad around the desert with his family. What you wouldn’t realize is Nickolas has Down Syndrome, but that doesn’t stop him, or his parents from being a typical family. He has a great enthusiasm for riding, camping and other outdoor activities with his sister, and parents. Here’s his story in the words of his parents:

Nickolas is a very active boy who loves sports, the outdoors and physical activity. Once he sees other kids his age doing something he wants to join in and do it too. When Cameron (his sister) plays soccer he wants to play soccer. Mom runs races, so he wants to race too. So it was no surprise that once his sister was riding on her own, he let it be known that he wanted to ride too with his persistent response of; “What about me?”. So it was just a matter of time and finding the right vehicle that would work for him.

Nickolas’s first attempt at riding was on a little Chinese 50 quad at age 8, about 2 years ago. He did ride it a few times around the campsite, but it was already too small for him, which resulted in him being a bit top heavy on it. He was going the blistering speed of a brisk walk, went over a small bump, hooked a hard right, but leaned left. Got tossed off, went face down in the dirt, and said to heck with that! He left the quad right there, and walked about 200 feet back to the camper. After that he didn’t want much more to do with it for the rest of the day. For some strange reason, he was more interested it the Ice Cream Truck that frequents the El Mirage dry lake bed, where we often camp, then onto the burgers and fries on the grill.

We decided that if we were going to continue in this as a family endeavor, we better get Nickolas and his sister Cameron on something a little more suitable for their size and developing skills. Cameron moved up to a Honda TRX90, and once she started riding it in the back yard, Nickolas was ready to give it another go. So last November, Santa came a little early, and Nickolas got a shiny new, well,…almost new Kymco Mongoose 90. We chose the Kymco after doing some research on them, and found them to actually be a high quality machine. As well, We wanted him to have a full CVT transmission, and not have to get confused and frustrated with shifting gears. It has proved to be a good choice so far.

Once we start packing up the camper, Nickolas will start asking; “going riding?”. After camp is set up and the quads are out is ready to go.  He’ll ride for a while, then stop for a drink, then get back on again. He’ll keep going all day, until he eventually falls asleep in the chair next to the campfire with a sticky face from marshmallows and making S’Mores. Just like any other kid.

To date, he now has 3 camping trips to El Mirage, with his “new quad”. He’s doing pretty well and he’s pretty proud of himself. Without question, “Daddy” is pretty proud of him too! Nickolas is still a little shy about jumping on the Landsailers with me, but that may have something to do with seeing me whipping by camp at 50+ mph, up on two wheels, with Cameron sitting next to me, yelling; “faster – Faster -FASTER  DADDY!!!”. He will go ride the Landsailers with me, but he is quite content to keep it on all 3 wheels doing about 20 mph or so. We also enjoy going boating, and Nickolas thinks he’s ready to start driving the boat too.

We’ve been fortunate to have several good support groups within our area with which we’ve been involved with in varying degrees over the years.  After Nickolas was born, and for the first few years following we were very involved with P.R.O.U.D. (Parent’s Regional Outreach for Understanding Down Syndrome) which later evolved into The Down Syndrome Association of Orange County (DSAOC).  As Nickolas got older and we got on with our lives, we found ourselves less involved as his needs changed.

During the last few years we have been more involved with another local organization, The Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County, which in partnership with DownsEd International is primarily focused on Educational Issues.  We’re part of the Learning Program’s Co-Op group which is made of kids around Nickolas’s age, i.e. older elementary school age and their parents.  One thing I would say is common amongst this group is that having a child with Down Syndrome has not stopped us from pursuing the things and activities we enjoy.  For some families it may be Martial Arts, another Horseback Riding, and another, travel.  For us it has been camping, riding, and other outdoor related activities.  While we may have to make adjustments and slow down, we don’t give up on the things we enjoy.  Eventually we find a way to accommodate and include Nickolas.

For more information on Down Syndrome and the groups listed above, please visit these links. Thank you.

The Down Syndrome Association of Orange County (DSAOC):
The Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County (DSFOC):
DownsEd International:

(editor’s note; I had misspelled Nickolas’s name with a “h”. I apologize!)

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J.T. says:

Such a inspiring story, Outstanding.

Brian says:

Great story Aaron. Very inspirational

Terry says:

Very cool story.

Two thumds way UP !!!!! I want to go riding with Nickolas 🙂

Howie says:

What a wonderful article…. thanks Aaron

Rick says:

Great story, Its all about the family no matter the circumstances. Well done.

Bill says:

Hi Ron, again, this is a great story alright. Thanks much for sharing it.Your Son is lucky he has parents that envolve him in so may different activities. Keep up the good work.

Love ya,


Sandra McElwee says:

Tear it up and keep riding on!
Tell your parents to keep the bar high, and not to limit anything, you’ll hold so many surprises in the next few years as you grow up.

Ron says:

Thanks for all the kind comments.
The kids got a big kick out of “Being Celebrities”, and Cameron now thinks she’s ready to hit the Red Carpet walk at the Academy Awards, LOL!

We have alot of fun riding with the kids, and ironically, the comprehension, concentration, and fine motor skills, necessary to ride, are the same skills that we are working on in the classroom at school.

We have worked with numerous Child Behavioral Specialist’s, and they ALL say that riding a ATV “fires/triggers” all the same neurons in the brain, that we use in the classroom. They say that it is actually GOOD for him to ride, because he becomes very intense in his focus, and concentration, and as a result, he is able to “stay on task” for longer periods of time. They say that you couldn’t PAY for any better therapy !

Hey ! That sounds good enough for me! So now, I don’t have to work so hard on the wife, trying to convince her that we should go riding.
Instead, I get to tell her that it is a weekend of “Developmental Excersizes” that Nickolas will benifit from! LOL!

So it just goes to show,… What we,as RV’ers, have known, all along,…

Camping is GOOD THERAPY !
(I know it sure makes ME feel better !)

So with that, I’ll say,
When the desert cools down some, We look very forward to meeting many of you, doing some riding, some landsailing, sharing a campfire, and just getting out for some serious “Therapy Sessions”. LOL!

Ride hard, Ride safe, and Keep the rubber side down!

Ron Suzanne Nickolas and Cameron

Jeff Lynch says:

Ron Both of these stories are very inspiring to me, I feel forunate to have met them both when I visited for a class reunion. One thing that I would like to touch on is your attention, love, and gratitude you show your kids, especialy Nickolas. I very special kid. Keep up the fun adventures it whats keeps a family together.

This is a wonderful story that gives me a smile and a tear. My daughter is 3 1/2 now and she has Ds. We do whatever we can to include her in everything her big brother does. I am currently teaching her how to ride a tricycle. So far it has been a challange but I don’t give up so I know she won’t either.

lili says:

I found this article very helpful, my son is 7 years old and we have been looking for new activities that can involve the family, I’m sure we will enjoy camping and riding….

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