Martial Arts Benefits for Children with Autism!
Martial arts can benefit everyone! Since April is Autism Awareness Month, we thought we would explore a few benefits of martial arts for children with ASD. Let's get started!
Many children tend to tense up when they face social gatherings and have difficulty communicating confidently. When children with ASD enroll in martial arts, their social anxiety decreases, and they start learning basic self-defense techniques. When children know they can handle the things that come their way, their confidence develops. This confidence boost results from them learning new skills and realizing they get better the more they try. Children also gain a sense of accomplishment as they continue their martial arts journey.
Autistic children, similar to children with ADHD, find it difficult to focus on a single task. Martial arts provide a supportive environment to teach attention and focus through the most effective and natural process, having fun. Because of this, children will develop and sharpen their skills through martial arts techniques, drills, and games, all while enjoying their time on the mat!
Martial Arts is an incredibly active sport. The techniques and movements require the student to be physically active and mentally agile. When children start training, their flexibility, strength, and endurance all increase. This leads to improved motor skills because martial arts engage the student mentally and physically.
A new environment can be a little intimidating for children with ASD as they prefer familiar settings, but as they begin a martial arts routine, the academy becomes a friendly environment for them. The constant interaction between the child and their instructors and the child and their teammates develops a sense of familiarity, and the academy becomes a comfortable space for them to express themselves and create new friendships. In addition, children will begin to ask their instructors questions about the techniques they are learning and develop a sense of camaraderie with their teammates.
Autism is a neural development disorder, meaning autistic children have more neurons in the prefrontal cortex than the average child. This can lead children with ASD to become swift learners because the prefrontal cortex is heavily involved in thinking and social behavior. As children are training, their heart rate increases, resulting in the pumping of more oxygen to the brain. The brain then releases hormones that help produce more brain cells, strengthening the neurons in the brain. Strong Neurons = Strong Brain!
For added reference, here is some information regarding a study that was done showing the benefits of martial arts training for children with ASD:
“In the study, 43 children aged 8- to 11-years with a clinical diagnosis of ASD were randomly assigned to an MMA intervention group or a control group. Those in the MMA group attended about 26 classes over the course of 13 weeks, in which they learned grappling techniques and combinations of strikes and kicks. Both the children and their parents completed various assessments of behavior and executive functioning before and after the 13-week period. The researchers observed that the MMA training was associated with increased behavioral inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility in the children. Parents also reported that their children’s emotion and behavior regulation had improved after the martial arts training.”