THE AUTISTIC CHILD AND TAE KWON DO

Eric breaking a board. His favorite thing to do in tae kwon do.
Eric breaking a board. His favorite thing to do in tae kwon do.

My seven year old son, Eric, is mildly autistic. In terms of being on the autistic spectrum, he is considered a "high functioning" autistic child. He attends regular class in a public school, and does pretty well with a few obstacles that his teachers have worked hard helping him over come.

Each autistic child and his or her situation is unique in many ways. Autism varies in severity and is why it is called the autistic spectrum. Autistic kids also seem to have one or two areas of expertise or interest. My son's has always been light and fans. I cannot imagine what is so spectacular about lights and fans other than they give us light to no longer be in the dark and cool us off when we are hot--other than that, they hold nothing to most of us.

Eric's problem at school is not a problem with his intelligence, although autistic children do not tend to do well on IQ test, his issue is being distracted by the lights in his classroom and therefore, focuses less on the teacher. So yes, the problem is focus, but not for focus sake, but because when one is entrenched on lights and the buzzing sounds those lights make, one is less inclined to be focused on the lesson the teacher is teaching.

My husband and I were looking for some method or training to help Eric with his focus issues. We had discussed tae kwon do, but wondered if he would enjoy it. Last fall, we were at a fair and saw a tae kwon do booth. The school was offering a free uniform and two weeks of lessons for five dollars. We could not let this chance pass us by. We felt there was nothing to lose. 


We enrolled Eric into tae kwon do classes and hoped that the structure would work to our advantage to help with his focus issues. In the beginning the classes were really rocky. Eric constantly starred up at the lights instead of giving his attention to the instructors. I commend the staff at the school we chose. They never gave up on him. It was all about finding the right school with determined instructors. After a few weeks, they asked if they could pull Eric out of the class for a couple of weeks and work with him one on one. During that time, the instructors worked with eye focus and body focus. 

The first few months of tae kwon do were painful. Nothing made Eric stand out so much as being around so many "normal" kids in one room. To see just how different he was pained us. He constantly had his hands in his mouth. He would look up at the lights and not follow the instructors' directions as well as the other kids.

One class, I was feeling particularly down about having such a different kid or hypersensitive as I call it. Eric was not having a good class at all. His focus was not there and he was being silly. Admittedly, I was very sensitive this particular day. There was a woman sitting next to me, obviously totally oblivious to the fact that Eric was my child because she laughed at him much of the time. I could feel heat from the embarrassment rise to my face. And then a sadness. The sadness was for the first time I realized he would be laughed at because of how autism affects him and his behavior sometimes. Autism has made him different. It will make him stand out. I hope we teach him it makes him unique and we tell him God made him special. 

After a few days, I was over the incident, or had at least put it behind me. I was sitting next to a parent who had two kids in the same class. We began to talk. Somehow the issue of this woman laughing at Eric came up and the parent I was talking to was furious. She told me she had been sitting on the other side of the woman that day and was getting angry with her. She told me she was just before saying something to the woman. So maybe I was not so over sensitive, but just a protective parent. It has been wonderful so many of the parents who have children in Eric's class have been incredibly supportive of him and his progress. And I found out that day, they are even a little protective of him.

Slowly things began to turn. Eric thrived on the repetitive nature of class and his focus became better and his participation improved.

Now ten months later, he will look people in the eye a little better. His focus in some ways has improved. We have always viewed tae kwon do as a therapy for Eric. Our gamble paid off. He loves class. This is important since class is four times a week. On top of that, On Tuesday, August 25th, Eric will be testing for the first time for his yellow belt. 

I cannot say that tae kwon do is for every autistic child. We know every child, especially with autism, is different. Each autistic child has their specific issues, but I recommend looking into tae kwon do. The discipline and respect that can be reinforced at a respectable school with the right instructors who understand where your child is and his potential, can reap bountiful rewards for your child. Autistic children thrive on routine, which tae kwon do provides. The key will be to find the right school as we did. The most important thing, however, is to never accept any limitations on your child even if he or she has autism.

Some info on autism

Comments 17 comments

Sciantel 7 years ago

Your child is a precious gift from God. I will tell you something, I too have a thing for lights, and fans. I have to sleep with my bedroom lit in good light because I have a fear of the dark, and I have to have a fan running at night. I cannot sleep without hearing it's roar. We are all made unique.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

thanks for share about your kid experience. As a teacher I always supporting you. And I new information from you. Two thumbs up for you. You are great Mother. We have do the best for our child. Tae kwon do is kind of effort, and it nice to try. I hope you get great solution for your kid. And I pray for that. success for you.


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

You did a wonderful job in telling your story about your son. You made the right move in finding him a suitable Tae Kwon Do dojo. Perhaps meditation might be another outlet--when I meditate, I meditate in darkness. This will enable him to focus that much better. Please keep it in mind.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 7 years ago

Dear Pamela,

Tae Quon Do is a fantastic discipline that gives children confidence and pride. I'm happy that you were wise enough to expose Eric to its wonders. Your son is as fortunate to have you for a mother as you are to have him. Wonderful hub.


no body profile image

no body 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

This is a great hub Pam. Tae Kwon Do was a reason I am a Christian today. It helped me through depression when I did not know Jesus. It was at a class I met my pastor that led me to the Lord and showed me how to get saved. I owe a lot to it and it seems you do too. Hugs.


GPAGE 7 years ago

Pamela, GREAT hub ;

So glad your son has done so well with this. I love Taekwondo! I'm actually almost a blackbelt....my kids love it too. Best, G


Wealthmadehealthy profile image

Wealthmadehealthy 7 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

I commend you on your choice for the lessons and how brave you had to be on that day...When I was 18, the first job I took was working with the Autistic Children in Houston, TX...It was very challenging....but it taught me a lot of things....you must surely be blessed by God for having such a special son...and do not forget this..He is a blessing who will teach you many things about life if you only let him...

May God Bless your Family and may your Courage and Faith grow daily...Thanks for being my fan!


Ally 7 years ago

Thank u for sharing this. I have a 5 year old son who is on the spectrume as well. ("High Functioning"). He has been attending Tae kwon do class for about 2 months now and still just wants to look in the mirror at himself and spin in circles. He can do a few basic moves (not as well as the other children, but he gets the idea down). I was worried that maybe this sport wasn't for him, then I saw how long u stuck with it. Congrats on that. I will defenitly stick with the class and help him practice more.


Pamela Laird profile image

Pamela Laird 7 years ago Author

Yes, stick with it. he first two or three months were painful to watch. At times, we were even embarrassed, I admit. But now, he loves it and is participating well. Stick with it and hang in there. Always expect more from him than you think he can do.

Tae kwon do is all about focus and discipline. That can only help all kids, but especially out mildly autistic kids.

Keep me informed. Email me at Plaird0909@aol.com.


Doug Sexton 6 years ago

Four years ago my son, who is a Boy Scout and a 3rd dan in Taekwondo, began teaching the sport to children with autism as a scout community service project. I have watched as he has gained a respect for these children, learned more about himself, and realized a level of satisfaction not often seen in teenagers today. Our family feels blessed to know these children and to be included in a part of their lives. They seem to have parents that model behaviors that all of us can learn from.


Pamela Laird profile image

Pamela Laird 6 years ago Author

Thank you, Doug, for your nice comments. We have found that Eric has inspired a number of people at Tae kwon do. Their support and the commitment of your son to teach autistic kids is inspiring to us.


Rick  6 years ago

My child and I are taking Tae Kwon Do as well, My son is 10 and has "Aspergers" a high funtioning form of Autism.

Thank You for sharing !!


Irving 6 years ago

I too have an autistic chhild. He's 12 and has been in Tae Kwon Do for 1.5 years. He'll be testing for his 3rd belt, the green belt, in a couple of weeks. I can heartily relate to your feelings of embarrassment when your child says or does something "not normal" during claasses. I agree that finfing the right school and instructors is key. I no longer take my child to OT which I have replaced with TKD. His focus is much improved, as has his coordination and strength (which were issues for him). Thanks for the post. I wish I had started my son on TKD sooner. I hope your boy continues to make strides.


Josh Cook 6 years ago

I've been doing Tae Kwon Do for over 13 years now, and I started the same way Eric did. At least I know now that we will both be a huge success story. :) Kuddos to you.


Greg Wilson 4 years ago

I absolutely loved your story about your son. I am also the parent of a beautiful 8 year old high functioning autistic child. His name in Nolan, and like your son Eric he is in main stream school and his main issue is with focus. I have thought recently about enrolling him in Tae Kwon Do. I am inspired by your story and am going to start looking for a suitable do jo in the Raleigh area...thank you again for sharing your story about Eric....


Bkhtyar 21 months ago

I like what I hear Jo. I think that all the detoxing by heahtly eating will help you to keep on that work out, and I believe that with each day it will get to be even greater fun and your own slice of time in life to stop all and do something for yourself.You Rock, and I want to keep up with you. You've already had me reviewing my eating patterns and have forced me to take a long hard look at my health. I love this blog! I hope that the momentum builds and I want to share with others on the strength and inspiration you have instilled my way.Have a super day. Drinks lots of water, and keep with the training plan. one day at a time.


Coralyn 21 months ago

I hate my life but at least this makes it beeabrla.

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