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Karate Can Help Kids with Special Needs Grow in Many Ways

by Traci Marino
Director of Anything's Possible Martial Arts, Braintree, MAssachusetts

Karate programs are designed to meet the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of children, teens and adults. Students can improve several areas of personal growth such as improved balance and coordination, stamina, focus and attention, self-control, self-esteem and social skills.

Karate is a combination of both physical and mental elements. It is highly recommended for children with special needs, hyperactivity or developmental and learning difficulties.

I have been working with special needs children and over the years have found students who participate in a karate program exhibit increased mobility, memorization and self-esteem. These programs can help improve:

  • strength, physical and motor skills
  • awareness
  • patience and determination
  • sensory and speech

Specific exercises can be created to fit each student’s particular developmental needs. These can help those who may experience difficulties with walking, flexibility, overall range of motion or other concerns.

Karate is also a great activity for kids who might struggle in team sports. In these cases, it helps fill a void for kids who in some situations might not be able to participate in sports because they have limited social skills. Structured physical programs like karate can have a positive influence in developing skills that can help with group participation. Classes help address these issues as students learn to pay attention, listen and work on the routines that are taught in class.

Karate can also function as a form of therapy. It provides: 1) physical exercise – practicing karate is demanding and requires a lot of energy, and students can process information better and more quickly; 2) discipline - the rules and code of conduct which precede and finish any karate class; i.e. standing in a straight line, bowing in and out of class; 3) consistency - repeated movements and practice help organize and focus a student’s learning; 4) social skills - setting forth the boundaries of acceptable behavior and reinforcing achievable goals, i.e., the belt system.

Most importantly, karate is "fun." It gives students with special needs a boost of self-esteem. The rewards of completing a technique, a kick, a strike or a punch, enables confidence and pride. Students are willing and excited to demonstrate something they have learned in class.

Traci Marino is the director of Anything's Possible Martial Arts, in Braintree, Massachusetts. You can reach her at: (617) 877-6639, or at:

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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