October 9, 2015

Teaching Martial Arts to Kids with Autism

images[10]As a volunteer instructor with Northwest Taekwondo and the YMCA, we don’t select our students.  We accept anyone, young or old, who wants to learn more about martial arts.  Many of my students are happy and healthy young people.  Others are kids with specials needs, including Autism and Asperger’s.  These kids bring unique joys and special challenges when teaching martial arts.  Just recently I had a break through moment with a young autistic student.  This student rarely participated in class and was very closed off, both emotionally and physically.  He had been in class for several weeks, but showed no interest in improving his skills or techniques.

That all changed recently when we had one on one sparring drills where a senior black belt is matched with a junior student.  This young man selected me as his opponent.  I expected little participation.  I was amazed at what I saw.  This young man demonstrated nearly perfect form and technique.  It was slow and measured, but the technique was nearly flawless.  Despite being emotionally closed off this young man had been listening to everything we had been teaching.  He processed the information in his own way and demonstrated kicks that a black belt would be envious of.  When that light turned on I couldn’t have been prouder.  We all learn at different speeds and have different talents.  Kids with autism and other disabilities are no different.  It’s our job as teachers to find the key to unlock the unique talents that each student possesses.