Martial arts are great for the children with special needs because they are just an “art.” It includes self-expression and a competition against themselves rather than others
A parent’s first instinct about activities that include kicking, punching, breaking things and yelling is probably that they aren’t really the best things for their child.
Martial arts are different systems and practices, many of which originated in Asia, including boxing, karate, taekwondo, muay thai and capoeira. And while kicking, punching, breaking things and yelling are a part of many of the practices, the skills learned are a great therapy for children with attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.
Martial arts are great for the children with special needs because they are just an “art.” It includes self-expression and a competition against themselves rather than others. Other benefits include:
- Consistency – Classes are typically scheduled once a week at the same time and moves within the practices include a lot of repetition.
- Discipline – Martial arts promote respect in the practices and self respect (keeping uniforms crisp and clean is one of them).
- Concentration – Remembering each move requires complete focus.
- Coordination – Like many sports, martial arts help children excel physically.
- Balance – This includes internal and external mind balance.
- Fun exercises – While martial arts are serious practices, the exercises are also fun to learn.
- Confidence – There may not be trophies like in some sports, but there is personal gratification in succeeding in certain levels of martial arts and graduating to the next level. In some of them, a new belt color is given.
How has studying martial arts helped children with special needs?
In one study of 30 children with autism, children involved in either martial arts and/or Kinesiotherapy experienced significant improvements in language, social communication and cognition, as well as less hyperactivity, temper tantrums, longer attention spans, better sleeping patterns and more independence.
The experts are seeing the benefits from the first hand. David Rosenberg, the owner of Kicking the Spectrum, a martial arts program for kids with special needs, told NY1:
These days, individuals are turning towards martial arts for the benefits of the mind and the body. So for the mind, it’s working on focus and attention, and the body, it’s working on motor skills, fine and gross, as well as core muscles.
Rosenberg’s classes help children stimulate focus and physical activity while generating a social connection and sense of belonging. They also gain a huge sense of achievement.
When they can figure out how to punch or kick, or even something simple, like ducking and jumping, the level of achievement and happiness that they get is just amazing, Rosenberg said.
As a child, I did one of the martial arts (taekwondo) and comparing it to other activities I did while growing up, gymnastics and volleyball, it allowed me to improve my focus, memory and internal strength. Looking back, I can definitely see how this would greatly benefit children of special needs.
Parents of children with special needs often have to explore different ways to help their children. At first glance, parents may not think the martial arts are a good option, but it’s important to be open-minded. Some of the most unique activities can help the most!