By Master Greg Moody, American Taekwondo Association
The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) is proud to offer martial arts training specifically for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at over 1,000 independently owned and operated licensed locations in the U.S. and abroad.
Certified instructors in the ATA already have been successful working with kids with ASD and other special needs for almost 45 years. Certified instructors in the ATA often succeed with these kids, while others make less progress, because they are the most highly trained martial arts instructors in the industry. To certify, they must complete 300 hours of supervised training, be CPR certified, pass a battery of tests, and fulfill many other requirements unparalleled in the martial arts industry.
Now ATA has taken this exceptional quality of instruction further by partnering with Autism Speaks. ATA and Autism Speaks have developed a training program for martial arts instructors covering what is known about autism and autism spectrum disorders, including classifications and symptoms of the disorders. The program also includes communications strategies and tactics proven effective in helping kids with special needs grow in self-confidence, self-control, and self-reliance.
Martial arts training is an especially valuable activity for children with ASD because of its many similarities to well-researched behavioral interventions such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). With ATA martial arts curriculum, the children are trained in a fun environment to focus, pay attention, and have a high level of discipline. The instructors use ten "class management skills" such as taking a personal approach, creating a positive climate, reinforcing positive behavior, and giving realistic praise. One of the most important skills is to "teach the concept of personal victory" - that victory is based on individual achievement, not how one performs relative to another. The addition of the ATA Autism Training program means that certified instructors in the ATA will be better educated about ASD, so students with autism (and their parents) may experience a host of truly liberating, life-changing benefits through Songahm Taekwondo training.
To help even more, many independently owned and operated ATA-licensed facilities are working closely with AutismSpeaks.org to raise money for continued research and participating in 'Walk Now for Autism Speaks' events in their communities.
The partnership between ATA and Autism Speaks will continue to benefit families of kids with autism and autism spectrum disorders in martial arts academies and in all walks of life.