The benefits martial arts brings to those on the Autism spectrum is well known by those of us in the martial arts community… and has also gained a lot of research and media attention in recent years.
A 2010 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin officially confirmed that martial arts and autism go well together – with autistic children noticeably improving in physical coordination, as well as self-esteem and social skills.
“You’ll read about these children trying martial arts based on recommendations of a parents support network, but there hadn’t been a science to back it up (until now!),” said John Greany, University of Wisconsin Professor of physical therapy, and Father to a son with autism spectrum disorder.
The benefits of a positive relationship between martial arts and autism that children and their families have recognised include:
Martial arts practice has been proven to improve the motor skills of those on the autism spectrum, an area that many autistic children struggle with. The ‘motor planning’ involved in martial arts (an instructed cue for a pre-determined action) accesses the areas of the brain that are used for motor skills development.
On top of this, studies conducted by the University of Isfahan found that the repetitive motions involved in learning martial arts help to regulate the frequency in repetitive motion (Stereotpy) that affects the lives of children of autism spectrum disorder.
One of the hardest challenges faced by children on the autism spectrum is the lack of confidence and self-esteem. Famous stories such as Hunter Vance’s and Ethan Fineshriber’s (who became a Martial Arts World Champion) are examples of the important role martial arts has played in the development of confidence and self-esteem for these children.
Perhaps most difficult of all challenges faced by children on the autism spectrum, tying in to both physical and mental development… is of course fitting in socially.
Martial arts classes are an excellent forum for social development. They require constant interaction between teacher and student, as well as between classmates, with many tasks requiring partnerships or group involvement.
These constant social interactions within a controlled environment offer children of autism spectrum disorder opportunities to develop their social skills, and grow in social confidence and awareness – an important part of a healthy lifestyle for all children.
At Giri, as active member in the martial arts community and Perth’s leading retailer in martial arts supplies, we are extremely proud to play a role in the development of all people who draw benefits from the practice of martial arts… and are passionate about spreading the word of these benefits.
We love to hear your stories about the benefits that you or someone you know has drawn from the practice of martial arts, and encourage you to start a conversation that may touch others in need!