Martial Arts Benefits People on the Autism Spectrum

Martial Arts Therapy for Autism and related Spectrum Disorders

We are always looking into alternative forms of therapy to help manage issues relating to autism.  Some common issues someone with autism may exhibit include repetitive movements, sounds or activities. Studies are showing traditional martial arts training as a great alternative therapy for individuals on the autism spectrum since the skills learned require repetitive movements and focused discipline, plus it is a therapeutic exercise.

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Physical Therapy Department showed trend with individuals and families turning to martial arts therapists, who have experience working with those who have neurodevelopmental and sensory challenges.

Not only are there benefits of improved eye contact, coordination and motor skills, but the study also indicated marked improvement in communication and self esteem. Children with autism essentially came out of their shells and grew more socially assertive and cooperative.

Ways Martial arts therapy can help an individual with autism include:

  • One-on-one training may keep their attention for longer periods of time
  • Repetitive movements inherent in martial arts may reduce dependence on certain unwanted behaviors
  • Learning and practicing new body positions may increase motor learning
  • The physicality of the sport itself can improve strength, conditioning, and agility
  • Social interaction during classes may improve communication and confidence
  • Physical activity can reduce disruptive behavior

The use of martial arts as a therapy for autism will provide encouragement, sets attainable goals through the levels of progress, provides structure, and the intensity of martial arts translate into other areas of the individual’s life.

As with any new therapy approach, please to talk to your doctor before starting any martial arts therapy program.

For more information about alternative therapies for autism, please visit.

Animal Therapy assists in Daily Life for People with Autism

Bryan, who has autism and his therapy dog, Freddie

We know about assistance dogs aiding blind people and therapy dogs assisting people with diabetes, epilepsy and mobility issues

But did you know there are programs across the country that provide assistance dogs to children and young adults with autism and other disabilities?

Freddie, a friendly lovable chocolate lab and Bryan Harker have been together since last year.

Freddie is an assistance dog and partner for Bryan, who has autism.  Along with being a fun and playful pet, Freddie is specifically trained to assist Bryan with managing his autism. “One of my favorite things is all the fun we can have,” Bryan said.

Paula, Bryan’s mom says the relationship is “fantastic.”

Bryan does not sleep through the night so Freddie sleeps with him to watch over him. Freddie sleeps with Bryan and now Bryan is managing to sleep through the night. Bryan rarely got a full nights sleep and would pace and wander. According to trainer, Mary Green, Freddie helps Bryan stay grounded.

“A person with autism might need the dog to provide some grounding techniques,” said Mary Green, K9 Manners and More in Broken Arrow, the folks who do the training. Training can last a year or two.

She witnessed first hand how Freddie positioned himself between Bryan and something that might trigger stress.  It this case it was the came and she.

Freddie will climb on and lie in Bryan’s lap when he becomes agitates or upset

This forces Bryan to re-focus. It’s an amazing thing to see. Another thing that is truly amazing is the non-profit, Aim High, provides the therapy dogs for free.

Families have enough to worry about and Lisa Bycroft of High Aim said “We take care of all expenses,”

Bryan a student at TCC takes Freddie everywhere, even class. Bryans mom said they have a special and incredible relationship.

“Having Freddie has made all the difference,” Paula said.

Bryan hopes to be a video game designer and is currently studying history, philosophy, and physics at TCC this semester.

For more human interest stories about living with autism, please visit