Children are a blessing. And blessings should be treasured. Blessings come differently to different people, and sometimes children come with disabilities. In this scenario, as a parent, you want the best for your child, so you embark on a search for different ways to improve the life of your child. If you haven’t found what you are looking for, perhaps you are overlooking the one thing that can improve your child in many ways- Martial Arts. Most people often misunderstand Martial Arts, some going as far as associating violence with Martial Arts. This article is geared towards showing you the effects Martial Arts training can have on children with disabilities.
What is Martial Arts?
Martial Arts encompass various sports or skills of Japanese origin which started as means of self-defense or attack. The most common styles of Martial Arts include:
• Taekwondo- This style focuses on kicking techniques and emphasizes on discipline, self-growth, and respect.
• Karate- As a traditional Japanese form, karate is practiced without weapons.
• Judo- This form is popular for the use of different throwing techniques
• Kung Fu- It’s one of the most ancient forms of Martial Arts and it is mostly known for its powerful blocks
• Aikido- This form focuses on non-aggressive forms of self-defense. It encourages use of throws, joint locks, and various restraining techniques
• Jujutsu- Focuses on ground fighting and grappling to enable a smaller fighter overcome a bigger and stronger opponent
Why Children with Disability Should be Introduced to Martial Arts
Martial Arts are particularly useful when dealing with disabled children for various reasons. First, Martial Arts keep the children engaged. All children are playful in nature and practicing Martial Arts keeps them occupied. Also, for Physical Therapists, Martial Arts offer more options when in session with the children. More importantly, Martial Arts offer a therapeutic experience to children (more on how later in the article), and the children think Martial Arts is cool!
Useful Aspects of Martial Arts Practice to a Child with Disability
• Stances- With directions from an expert, the children are shown how to do different important stances. The most popular stance is the shallow standing squat. It is a neutral and agile position which facilitates the launch of both defense and attack.
• Kicking- From experience, children –especially boys- love this aspect of Martial Arts. Like in animals with hooves, Kicking is used in stand-up “fighting”
• Bilateral upper extremity use- Use of the upper body to defend and launch attacks
• Jumping and Spinning- In Martial Arts, jumping and spinning is essential to launching different kicks
• Breathing Techniques
• Katas- These are choreographed repetitive movements which can be practiced solo or in a group
Impacts of Martial Arts on Children with Disability
There have been some reliable and conclusive researches done on this topic, and the following information represents the conclusions reached by them.
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)/Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia is a movement disorder that affects Five to Six percent of all Children aged between six and twelve years. Children suffering from this condition do not exhibit medical or neurological conditions which can be used to explain the disorder. That being the case, experts differ on how best to tackle the condition. In the past, it was thought that DCD disorder could easily be outgrown, but it persists through adolescence to adulthood. Taekwondo is the form of Martial Arts used to improve children suffering from this movement disorder. Taekwondo improves the following:
• Single leg stance time
• Vestibular functions, increasing stability
• Lower limb strength
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a development disorder which affects the brain. Autism involves abnormal brain development and function. Children suffering from autism exhibit minimal social communication skills and monotonous or restricted behavior or interest patterns. As complex as it may sound, children with this disorder but engage in martial art show considerable improvement in the following ways:
• Improved play and balance skills
• Regular eye contact
• Lesser instances of disorderly behavior
Children with Epilepsy
Caring for an epileptic child requires dedication and love as it is a chronic disorder. Repetitive and unprovoked seizures characterize epilepsy. Having seizures can impact negatively on a child’s education, safety, and play among other important aspects of life. Introducing epileptic children to Martial Arts can have a positive effect on both the child and the parent. Parents with epileptic children practicing Martial Arts record lower stress levels leading to improved quality of life for both parent and children.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is the most common form of disorder in children. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is depicted by excessive activity, difficulty in paying attention, and a problem controlling strange behavior which is not reflective of a child’s age. Contrary to believe, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not a sign of low intelligence. Thus, a child can grow normally and go on to achieve great things. There is a belief that various forms of Martial Arts reduce impulsivity and improve concentration in children who have ADHD.
Physical Therapists who engage children with disability in their day to day business have received Martial Arts well. In fact, some therapists have designed physical therapy programs themed around Martial Arts. Martial Arts based therapy programs are being viewed as an alternative to the traditional physical therapy. Martial Arts are being used on children with different forms of disability as programs have also been tailored to cater for children on wheelchairs. The popular view is that Martial Arts aid children who have found it hard to transition into community-based, gross-motor oriented programs. Amazingly, physical therapists believe that Martial Arts are as effective as hypnotherapy and water based therapy.
To have the maximum impact on the health of the children, every child should have a committed one-on-one assistant and a karate instructor in addition to a physical therapist. As the needs of every child with a disability are different, the karate instructor works closely with the physical therapist so as to modify the Martial Arts program to meet the specific needs of every child. Apart from the physical benefits associated with Martial Arts practice, children with disability are happier during their martial arts sessions than during the traditional physical therapy. Also, for the parents, there is a big plus in that Martial Arts reduce aggression, makes the children more responsible and fosters mutual respect.
Special needs children range from children who have mental disabilities, to personality disabilities, to higher level physically disabled children. One common thread with all of these groups is that they normally don’t get enough attention and what little attention they do get is somewhat negative or forced at the very least. Well, a California martial […]Read more