Karate Therapy? How Martial Arts Transformed My Special-Needs Child

My five-year-old daughter has always been a bit different from other kids. She has had delayed gross motor development, panic attacks, and difficulty paying attention since infancy. Once she started in school, I heard constant bad news from her teachers. Although her skills with reading, writing and language were outstanding, every school day was another nightmare. She had panicked outbursts every time something upset her. She bit herself, hit herself, and ripped out her own hair. She would "zone out" so much that I had to have her evaluated for seizures. She had terrible coordination at the playground, waddling like a toddler while other kids ran, jumped, and skipped.

I've been through several attempts to "fix" my daughter's problems, starting in infancy, but out of these, only one unlikely form of "therapy" truly transformed my daughter. Karate lessons have made my daughter less anxious, more attentive, and more coordinated than ever before and have given me hope that she will succeed in the future without any lasting problems from her learning differences. I believe that martial arts may be one of the most effective ways of helping special-needs children.

"Martial arts can definitely help a lot," said my daughter's pediatrician, Dr. Carolyn Brannon of Hixson, Tennessee. "It helps kids learn self-control and coordination and can build confidence." She wasn't the slightest bit surprised to hear about my daughter's excellent luck with martial arts therapy, but she cautioned me against using it as a sole treatment for my daughter's individual needs. She told me that it's important to make sure to continue visiting a counselor to help my daughter manage her anxiety issues. For most children with differences in physical development and learning style, martial arts lessons are usually combined with other treatments like occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, counseling, and, in some cases, medication.

My daughter's instructor, Corey Green, specializes in teaching children with special needs. His current students include children with conditions ranging from autism and ADD to cerebral palsy and depression. Every parent I have spoken to at the dojo has reported the exact same results from his miracle-worker teaching methods. Within just a few weeks of starting training, Sensei Green's students show dramatic improvements in their coordination, attention span, self-esteem, and social skills. Several parents watched in awe as their children, normally inattentive or anxious, patiently and peacefully participated in the lessons Sensei Green taught them.

After just a month of karate lessons, my daughter stopped getting any complaints or concerns from her preschool teachers. "Good days" quickly became the norm; "bad days" became rare exceptions. She no longer engages in self-harming anxiety behaviors like hair-pulling and biting herself, and her teachers report that she's paying closer attention in school and having far fewer episodes in which she "zones out." Most remarkably, my little girl, who couldn't even jump until after her fourth birthday, finally got clearance from her pediatrician saying that she no longer has a diagnosable gross motor delay. At home, she acts more obedient and more responsible-- all without medication, strange treatments, or more intensive therapies. I believe that I owe this all to martial arts therapy. Children both with and without "special" learning needs can benefit from skills taught through martial arts lessons, and I'm thankful that I discovered this simple but incredibly valuable way to improve my daughter's health and quality of life.