Martial Arts and Autism
A parent with a child on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continuously searches for ways to reach his/her child's highest function potential.
Children on the spectrum have physical, emotional, and social challenges, therefore, it is very difficult for parents to find activities that can be integrated successfully for their ASD child.
Overall, ASD children have difficulties developing social, motor, and coping skills. Visual input and self-confidence may also be included in this. In the search to improve these skills, many parents have discovered the benefits martial arts can provide to their ASD children.
It is difficult to measure the positive outcomes since the ASD is so broad, however, parents, with the help of scientific research, have witnessed the effective positive outcomes martial arts have given their children.
Repetition of physical practice and environment
Vilayanur Ramacharndran and colleagues at the University of California at San Diego observed that repetition of physical practice and environment allow a child with Autism to feel empowered. This allows them to focus on the movements that result in the sensation of their body moving.
Consequently, for example, their subconscious brain activity cues movement by visual-motor learning evolving brain activity (Paul Zehr, 2012).
Why is this important?
Children in the ASD experience sensory deficits. Sensory input can make motor, coping and visual skills difficult to develop. Movement, balance, sounds, and visual input can be overwhelming for an ASD child.
However, many parents have found that martial arts assists on developing skills and tolerance with routine and practice which are important on the sensory skills such as balancing and coordination, focus and concentration and fitness and flexibility.
Actions are choreographed and repetitive which are perfect for an ASD child. In addition, these actions, along with the assistance of a well-trained martial arts instructors, can focus the child on the development of skills such as balance and coordination as well as fitness and flexibility.
Repetitive routines lead to habits which are easier to manage, focus and concentrate for a child with ASD.
Social interaction is witnessed since practices may include a group of students working together. We must emphasize, the practices that this group participates in is not for competition, but to assist each other on their own developments.
In Encompass Martial Arts, we have the gift to work with children on the ASD. At first, parents were just looking for a Summer Camp for their children. When they experienced the positive environment and classes, they registered their children to give it a try.
Now, those children love martial arts and, mostly, they love Encompass Martial Arts. Having good and nurturing instructors are crucial for children on the spectrum. They need to feel secure in their environment. They need to feel they are at home. Children are able to experience all these, and more, at the academy.
From the Autism Spectrum to a Leaders
Encompass Martial Arts has gone beyond martial arts. The academy has included some of those children to lead younger children in the Summer Camps as Junior Leaders.
This role has brought out the best of the children with its social skills and the skills they have learned for the past years as students of martial arts. Parents have seen their socialization, physical (motor and strength) coordination, as well as improved self-esteem.