“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child CAN DO instead of what he cannot do.” -- Dr. Temple Grandin, the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world
April 2, 2014 is World Autism Awareness Day. Last month the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that based on 2010 surveillance data, 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is a substantial increase from ten years (2000) ago when the rate was 1 in 150. Many believe this increase is due to better diagnosis, including Dr. Grandin.
It is easy to admire Dr. Grandin for what she has accomplished. And she has her mother to thank for her success. Her mom never gave up on her, coaxing speech and communications from her and later setting her up with odd jobs to learn valuable work skills.
A common feature in ASD is a tendency to have a special ability, like art, or math, or remembering all the state capitals. Dr. Grandin believes that those special abilities need to be reinforced and expanded upon, and Dr, Grandin says, “You’ve got to stretch these kids.”, “if you don’t stretch them, they don’t develop.”
Another feature in ASD is performing repetitive movements. Some people question whether or not focusing on repetitive practice is good in ASD. And that makes me wonder because learning any skill takes practice, repetitive practice, over and over, until the action becomes automatic. That is the way of Taekwondo, where the exercises and forms involve repeated sequences put together, just like a figure skating or gymnastics routine, or doing factory work or other repetitive action.
Learning the Martial Arts involves visual training, something that most of us appreciate, especially children with ASD. Martial Arts students watch the instructor perform the exercise. Then students repeat the movement, either by themselves or coached by the instructor. Like so many things we learn, we first learn by watching...then doing.
And there are goals. Learning and performing the new exercise and form as a short-term goal, earning the next belt is a mid-term goal, and becoming a Black Belt for a long-term goal. And having goals make us "stretch".
Learning Taekwondo can benefit everyone...including those with ASD.
Thank you for this opportunity to serve you.
Master Chris Berlow, 6th Dan
Professional Martial Artist, Owner, and Author