Local martial arts school kicks autism with karate

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - A local martial arts facility is punching and kicking autism with karate.

ATA Martial Arts Owner Theresa Anderson said she not only encourages kids with autism to join her studio, but she also incorporates them into the regular classes.

"It's pretty much the same as teaching everyone. And that, I think, is the key to teaching kids with any kind of disability is we don't treat them any different and they really excel in that way," Anderson said.

Anderson said she has a student with Aspergers and ADHD.

His mother, Tricia Arnold, said he has been in the program for about a year and is more than impressed with his progress.

"We've seen his grades improve, we've seen him, you know, making more friends when he wasn't making friends before. The kids here are disciplined to so they just kind of fit and work together," Arnold said.

"He works really hard and you can see he tries real hard and does well. I've had parents tell me that, how they just can't believe how much better they're doing in school," Anderson said.

Arnold said they were looking for something to give him more structure.

"Sometimes a schedule really helps him a lot," Arnold said.

"They have more confidence, they can look people in the eye and say, 'No,' or 'Leave me alone' and not be afraid to do that," Anderson said.

Arnold said the classes teach lessons beyond self defense.

"There's the discipline and learning good manners and self control and self respect and not bullying. Bullying is a big deal," Arnold said.

"Really working the whole time that they're in here and focusing and doing the best that they can 100 percent all the time," Anderson said.

Arnold said the program is not only good for kids with Aspergers and ADHD, but really any kids.

"It's huge, I mean, that they're sticking with it and really making a commitment and trying to better themselves," Arnold said.

"It's rewarding. It's exciting and everything. We love it. We're always open to accepting anybody with those kinds of disabilities and try to help them. And, so far, it's been doing really good," Anderson said.

Arnold also has another son with ADHD in the program and she said the classes have had the same positive effect on him.

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