The goals of our adapted karate program (as are all our free playgroups that are open to children in The Caroline School, Children’s Therapy, Infant Program etc) are physical, cognitive, and social-emotional. In addition to the strength, balance, and coordination that are necessary to complete the movements in adapted karate, children develop friendships, work on following directions, participate in and work as a group, understand others’ differences, and build self-confidence. The culmination of all the students’ hard work is the belt test ceremony. Students who are prepared are invited to show off their skills for their families and a panel of black belts from the community.
Jackson is a star pupil, and has consistently attended our classes for the past several years. He has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, but not even the braces on his legs can slow him down. While preparing for the upcoming belt test, we learned that Jackson would be unable to attend because he would be undergoing major surgery. Instead of waiting for months of recovery and rehabilitation, the black belt panel agreed to host a special belt test for Jackson before his surgery. Our Sensei, Master Luis Garcia, has always told our clients that if you could earn a belt, you could do anything; that in comparison to the discipline, hard work, and commitment it takes to earn a belt, everything else is easy. Jackson had shown us already that he had earned his belt, and we wanted him to take that belt, and the strength it represents, with him as he went in for this surgery.
When we asked his mother, she was so excited. She told us that Jackson loves karate and even has his older earned belt and certificate up in his room.
Jackson had his entire support squad with him on the day of his test! His parents, grandparents, friends, therapists, and aunt all came to support this very special young man on his big day. He showed off his improved flexibility and balance with his kicks. He impressed us all with his fast reflexes and good control during blocks and partner self-defense. The highlight of the night, everyone’s favorite part: board breaking. Jackson completed an advanced board break—on a real board, he would tell you—as if it were nothing. He did so well, and he knew it! Jackson was so proud of himself. His family was elated, beaming with pride.
It is through community support that we are able to offer our playgroups which also include dance, music, yoga, art and teen night for free so that all children with disabilities can attend, learn to socialize, improve the skills they are already working on in therapy and build their self-confidence. What a gift.
Daryn Ofczarak, M.A., CCC-SLP, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Speech Language Pathologist