Advanced Pediatric Therapies


Martial Arts helps Woman with Autism

on April 22, 2019

This story of a mom in her thirties who has autism is a truly incredible read! Jen Malia wasn’t diagnosed until after she began martial arts training, but found Tae Kwon Do to be a gift to her .  This martial art, in Korean, “the way of the fist” uses punches and kicks as well as traditional forms and movement patterns.  It is competitive in nature and involves also dancing around on the balls of your feet.

woman punching red heavy bag

Photo by Pixabay on

Jen struggled with identifiable problems of autism including balance, coordination, focus, depth perception, executive functioning (got a PhD but had a difficult time prioritizing), social anxiety, obsessive interests, repetitive routines, sensory issues and anxiety.

She says that long distance running along with the practice of tae kwon do helped her with all of these issues.  She spent 5 years earning a black belt and now teaches tae kwon do to kids.  She feels that the combination of these two sports calmed her mind and disrupted “chaotic thoughts.”  She also feels the Asian tradition of repetitive movements and concentrated performance (mindfulness) helped her to learn to make better decisions, focus her attention and organize information.

Any OT can tell you that heavy work will help with all of the above but the article really reinforces how essential these practices were to help her in her journey.  She also received counseling, but credits the martial arts the most with helping her learn new skills.  A great lesson in the importance of using your heavy work and mindful practices to not only help with balance and coordination but also training attention.  Pretty cool!

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