Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pushed Just Enough

One evening last week, Ethan ate dinner with a worried look on his face. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “I need seven stripes on my belt before I can test for my yellow belt, and I only have two stripes.”
Ethan is scheduled to test for his yellow belt in Taekwondo at the end of the month, but after this conversation, I realized that moving up a rank was not a done deal. He needed some more practice before he would be ready to test, so I resolved to take him to extra classes for the next two weeks.
Helping Ethan succeed in Taekwondo is important to me because this activity has done so much to boost his self-esteem and improve his motor skills. My heart swells when I watch him practice a form, which is a series of choreographed kicks and punches, because a year ago his motor skills were so poor his could not do a single sit-up or push-up. This martial art has helped him work on his motor planning skills in a fun way.
But it’s also a lot of work—more so for Ethan due to his autism. His lack of coordination and poor motor planning make memorizing these forms difficult for him. Ethan’s teachers have to walk the fine line of pushing him to improve his skills without deteriorating his self-esteem.
Thankfully, Ethan’ teachers have done an excellent job. Last Saturday, for example, one of Ethan’s teachers grilled him on a certain move in a form. She made him repeat the move until he got it right. I watched with a knot in my stomach, worried that this grilling would push Ethan into a meltdown. But, thankfully, the teacher acknowledged that Ethan was doing his best and put a stripe on his belt.
Even though some of Ethan’s peers are performing at a higher level than he is, because of his disability, he is working just as hard. The fact that his Taekwondo teachers acknowledge this and are rewarding him for his efforts makes me so grateful we’ve found this wonderful activity for him.


hokgardner said...

THat's great that you've found an activity that Ethan enjoys and that helps him.

Anonymous said...

That's fantastic! That's what I was hoping would happen with A, but it just didn't. :( I really think tae kwon do can really do great things for kids, and I'm so happy it's working out for Ethan! :)

LceeL said...

Well done. Kids with Autism very often have Anxiety Issues, as well, and many times the 'meltdowns' are in reaction to the severe anxiety they feel in certain types of situations.

It is SO good that his Martial Arts instructors are so focused on being supportive as well as instructive. Building self esteem is so critical to Martial Arts - and yet, so many instructors seem to lose sight of that.

Good job by your people.

suzannah said...

what a great fit. a blessing!