Helping Your Child Manage Their Learning Disability Through Martial Arts
As a parent, it can be heartbreaking to watch your child struggle in school due to a learning disability. You may be at your wits’ end when it comes to finding a solution to help your child overcome it, but what if you could achieve this through physical activity? Studies show that children with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia and other learning disabilities can benefit from the structure and discipline that comes with learning karate.
Disabilities That Can Be Aided with Karate
Karate is learned through consistency and repetition. The mental and physical challenges your child will overcome through karate provide a safe and fun learning environment, all while nurturing a sense of focus, structure, awareness and security. By providing a supportive arena for your child to learn at their own pace, karate can help with a variety of learning disabilities, including:
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurological condition that causes difficulties with attention, sitting still and impulse control. This can cause problems for your child in the classroom, on the playground and at home. Attention is critical to learning karate and is taught over time through repetition and consistency in order to gradually strengthen the neural pathways that improve self-control.
Dyslexia, or Developmental Reading Disorder, is a medical disability that can affect a child’s ability to learn reading, writing and spelling. Not only can this cause issues at school, but it can also be incredibly frustrating for a child in other areas of their life, which in turn can affect their confidence. Karate has proven benefits in improving cognitive development, especially for young children who have recently been diagnosed.
Learning and Memory Problems
Karate is a highly sensory activity, stimulating all five senses through repetitive, tactile exercises. If your child suffers from a learning disability that causes issues with memory and retention, karate promotes growth and improves neural connectivity by exercising the parts of their brain responsible for balance, body awareness, muscle coordination, strength and working memory.
Benefits of Karate for Children with Learning Disabilities
Improved Focus and Concentration
Focus and concentration are core values of karate. Your child’s instructor will have clear and well-defined rules that they reinforce consistently both in and out of class, emphasizing the importance of respect and discipline. A dynamic lesson structure (group practice sessions broken up with short demonstrations) makes it easier for children with learning disabilities to remain engaged.
Helps Them Set Attainable Goals
For any child, achieving milestones and being recognized for reaching their goals brings a sense of accomplishment and boosts self-esteem. This is especially true for children with learning disabilities, who often struggle with the belief that their disability will somehow limit their ability to succeed.
Karate will challenge your child to work toward realistic and well-defined goals. As your child moves up the ranks, they will be awarded coloured belts according to their skill level, providing them with a tangible milestone to work toward.
Because patience and respect are so crucial in the dojo, karate gives children with learning disabilities an accepting environment where they won’t feel nervous or embarrassed. Mistakes are considered learning experiences rather than failures, which will help shift your child’s focus productively to the next task instead of discouraging them. Your child’s accomplishments will be celebrated by the entire group and, in turn, they will learn to support others in their accomplishments as well.
Discipline and Self-Control
Many learning disabilities cause issues with self-control, especially when it comes to staying on task and curbing impulses. Karate is all about learning to persevere and use physical techniques in a strategic manner. By analyzing and responding to their surroundings and through the controlled movements they will learn, your child will notice improved self-control and self-discipline.
Step-By-Step Learning & Memorization
Karate techniques are made up of dozens of small movements, which can seem daunting if your child has trouble with memorizing or following direction. However, these complex moves are learned gradually over time, enabling them to master each move at their own pace, in a way that works for them. This also exercises the part of your child’s brain responsible for working memory and memorization, which will translate to improved performance in the classroom.
A common myth is that martial arts promote violent behaviour. In fact, they actually promote peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution skills and emphasize that physical altercations should be avoided. Learning to handle conflict situations in a constructive manner is a critical skill for young children to learn, especially children with learning disabilities who may have trouble expressing themselves.
That being said, if your child is often angry or frustrated because of their learning disability, karate is a great way to release pent-up frustrations through healthy physical activity.
A child with a learning disability might find it difficult to participate in team sports, causing them to feel discouraged or left out. Learning disabilities can sometimes hinder the development of social skills needed for many team sports such as sharing and following directions.
Although karate is usually practiced in a group environment, it follows individualized programming that is tailored to the needs and learning style of the student. This means your little one will get to practice with a supportive group of peers, without the pressure of competing with other kids.
When your child suffers from a learning disability, it can be difficult to find a sport that works for them. It is important for children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD to have a safe environment to learn and flourish at their own pace.
Physical activity can be an important factor in helping your child overcome their learning disability and karate provides the perfect arena for them to grow. Through one-on-one attention and a focus on discipline, they will learn a variety of essential life skills that can be applied in the classroom and at home.