Striking back against autism

18 Apr

I’m pleased to bring you another of my East Extra Afterthoughts installments today.

Afterthoughts is a completely separate blog, where I’m reposting some of my favorite columns from when I was the Our Towns East Extra columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle.

I chose this particular column today because April is World Autism Awareness Month, and this piece highlights a jujitsu school which has for years offered classes for children on the spectrum.

Strike Back Martial Arts’ dojo used to be at 55 East Main St. in the Village of Webster, in the same building as Webster Hots (the sign is still there). COVID caused it to close in 2020, but it’s landed on its feet.

The column was originally published on June 4, 2015.

Martial arts helps children with autism

At a recent class at Strike Back Martial Arts in Webster, eight-year old Alex Maenza stood on the mats, awaiting instructions.

When “Sensei Mike” gave him the cue, he turned around, ran backwards toward the opposite end of the room, and caught a ball thrown at him from 20 feet away.

Alex beamed and bounced with delight. His instructors told him “Good job!” His parents were proud.

For most kids, this would be a simple skill. But for Alex, it was something to cheer about.

Alex and the seven other boys in his class are part of Strike Back’s Jujitsu Buddies program, for children ages 4-12 on the autism spectrum. For these children, skills like catching a ball, navigating an obstacle course, even interacting with their peers can be a major accomplishment.

Strike Back Martial Arts owners Mike Palmer and Dave Nicchitta describe the class as a comprehensive introduction to Jujitsu and martial arts for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. But these kids won’t be applying headlocks or throwing their classmates to the mats anytime soon. Other skills are much more important.

Click here to go to Afterthoughts and read the rest of the post.

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