Punching Kicking Autism
Karate class helps autistic students learn to socialize.
5-year old, Will Neely, isn't setting out to become a black belt.
He's one of five autistic karate kids at a class at Global Fitness, a class his mother, Brandie, helped jump-start with Brian Neal, an area karate instructor.
"We tried it one day and I told him, I knew he would be honest with me and tell me, look Will can't handle this, if that were the truth," said Neely. "And, he's worked with them and it's turned out great."
Neal says martial arts provide an excellent outlet for easing the effects of the disease, all while teaching them self defense.
"Autistic kids are very tactile, so they like touching things and feeling different sensations," said Neal. "They like the pads they get to hit, they like how they're soft."
Autism effects each person differently, as Neely says their minds are wired in a different way.
Another child in the class, 6-year-old Laithan Pratt, is high functioning. His father has noticed improvements in his behavior since joining the class in December.
"It's taught him, it's actually built on what he's learning at school - the paying attention, the listening to directions - big one," said Grant Pratt, Laithan's dad. "And, that's really what we've seen the most improvement in."
Neely says, for her, the greatest reward of the class is the sense of belonging.
"I want him to have a place to belong that's something other than therapy, that's all he ever went to," said Neely. "I wanted it for me as a mother too, to have my son do things that normal kids do. It makes us feel normal."