Sunday, November 6, 2011
Is Martial Arts Right for Children with Disabilities?
How much instructional “specialness” should you expect for your child with special needs? That of course, will depend on the nature of the needs. I’ll cover kids with ambulatory disabilities in another post. For now, let’s assume that your child is not physically disabled. For instance, your child may have an attention disorder, or a non-verbal learning disability, or be easily distracted. The first thing you need to do is to inform your instructor. How they motivate a child can vary significantly depending on their needs.
But let’s understand something, martial arts is not like 5th grade that lasts all of nine months. Your expectation should be that martial arts training will last three to four years (hopefully even more), with incremental advancements designated by colored belts.
I have seen kids with varying incarnations of Individual Education Plans (IEP), Chapter 15s, Service Agreements, and all manner of tutors come through our program, and regardless of disability, age, or gender - a Red Belt is able to sit still, listen to instructions, and respond with respect. These are significant external manifestations of self respect, confidence, and discipline. Can you think of a better set of qualities to endow your child for a future of independence?
Naturally, some kids, even those with disabilities, have better physical coordination and ability than others - but universally, kids that make it to the third year (typically that’s Red Belt) are all attentive, respectful, and reasonably capable.
No child like to practice, especially when the practice seems to be repetitive and boring. So when your little boy hasn’t learned his new form (pattern, Kata, Hyung) after three weeks it probably isn’t because he’s “special”, its probably because he hasn’t practiced. Bring him to class on a regular basis, and by regular I don’t mean twice a week. Physically gifted kids can get away with two classes per week. Most need a minimum of three.
Discuss with your instructor your child’s specific issues, but I don’t want to mislead you. You’re not going to get a customized instruction program for your special child. Martial arts training has been developed over hundreds of years. The verbal instructions, with visual demonstrations, and repetitive practice - works. Some kids learn with the words, some get the visuals, others learn by doing - but all will learn... in time.