Martial arts classes can work to help kids with special needs not only physically, but also mentally. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.
It may look like simple kicking and punching, but in this karate class, these moves are anything but simple. Here, these kids have all been diagnosed with various spectrum disorders, and karate is proving to be the best therapy.
"These days, individuals are turning towards martial arts for the benefits of the mind and the body," says David Rosenberg, the owner of Kicking the Spectrum, a martial arts program for kids with special needs. "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."
At Kicking the Spectrum, kids who are often challenged with multi-step tasks and focus find a mind-body connection that unlocks whole new world.
Martial arts programs for kids with special needs are becoming a growing trend. Karate is a multi-tasker. It helps stimulate focus and physical activity, and generates a social connection and sense of belonging.
"Another benefit of martial arts is the ability to work on executive functioning," Rosenberg says. "A lot of individuals with special needs have trouble with multi-step functioning beyond one- or two-step processes. By using a kata, which is a series of movements in a set pattern, we can progress an individual from one step up to 20 steps."
Aside from the physical and mental discipline, the program also offers an emotional element. Here, kids gain a tremendous sense of self-confidence because they're used to being in environments where they are struggling, but here, they are achieving.
"They're shining lights," Rosenberg says. "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."
Parents see the difference.
"I see a big difference in his concentration, in his focusing and behavior," said one parent. "They really understand him, so it's, he's so excited every day that he has martial arts."
At the end of each lesson, as these kids take a bow, their performance on all levels is an achievement worth applauding.