A martial arts facility in Paragould, Arkansas, is encouraging autistic children to join the studio. ATA Martial Arts Owner Theresa Anderson says that she incorporates the kids into the regular classes.
“It’s pretty much the same as teaching everyone. And that, I think, is the key to teaching kids with any kind of disability is we don’t treat them any different and they really excel in that way.”
Anderson said she has a student with Aspergers and ADHD. The student’s mother, Tricia Arnold, has been in the program for about a year and is more impressed with his progress.
“We’ve seen his grades improve, we’ve seen him, you know, making more friends when he wasn’t making friends before. The kids here are disciplined,” Arnold said. “Sometimes a schedule really helps… a lot.”
Arnold said the classes teach lessons beyond self defense. “There’s the discipline and learning good manners and self control and self respect and not bullying. Bullying is a big deal.” She says that the program is not only good for kids with Aspergers and ADHD, but really any kids.
“He works really hard and you can see he tries real hard and does well. I’ve had parents tell me that, how they can’t just believe how much better they’re doing in school,” said Anderson. “They have more confidence, they can look people in the eye and say ‘No,’ or ‘Leave me alone’ and not be afraid to do that.
“It’s rewarding. It’s exciting and everything. We love it. We’re always open to accepting anybody with those kinds of disabilities and try to help them. And, so far, it’s been doing really good.”