Martial arts sports began centuries ago in Asia and consisted of many different practices. The disciplines today include anything from boxing, karate, and taekwondo to the lesser known capoeira and muay thai. Each sport typically involves performing kicking and punching an opponent along with enacting evasive moves in self-defense. The skills learned in each of the disciplines have proven helpful for youngsters diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or autism.
Practitioners treating children having special needs find ways to enable them to lead the most productive lives possible. Researchers in the last decade discovered that the techniques learned in martial arts help accomplish that goal for children with autism, ADD or ADHD.
In some instances, studios are staffed by a behavioral specialist and the martial arts instructor. In other situations, youngsters attend regular counseling sessions and attend martial arts sessions separately.
Children diagnosed with autism or sensory issues benefit from martial arts in many different ways.
- Control aggression: Martial arts requires that students avoid conflicts, aggression, hostility, and impulsive actions. Students learn to become honorable and respectful toward others.
- Anxiety coping mechanisms: Children diagnosed with ADHD are prone to anxiety and stress from everyday situations that do not affect others. The concentration and self-control they learn in the sessions help them cope with and control negative emotions and thoughts.
- Fitness benefits-ADHD youngsters often have difficulty developing fine motor skills. Martial arts has been shown to increase their overall agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, and physical strength.
- Enhanced self-worth: Special needs children often suffer from low confidence and self-esteem. As students progress in their training, they become more physically fit and have the opportunity to earn belts and ranks as a reward for their achievements. Additionally, the students feel better about themselves as they gain the ability to overcome negative behaviors.
- Increased social interaction: Children living with sensory disorders know they are different and have difficulty fitting in peer social groups. However, being a student in a martial arts class enables them to be on an equal platform with other students. Thus, they have a sense of belonging and are better able to work with their peers.