GregW wrote:Hi guys,
I have a seven year-old student who has given me some behavior problems in class. He has some very real attention deficit issues and his lack of attentiveness combined with aggressiveness poses a danger to his training partners. He whines, stomps, throws himself on the ground, attacks his opponents (not with judo), pouts, and sulks. He refuses to be uke and doesn't follow directions when he's tori. I communicated this to his father and the father informed me that the boy also has "mild autism."
Does anyone have any suggestions about teaching autistic students? I hate to see him quit, but I don't want him to end up hurting someone because he doesn't listen to instructions. I've tried time outs, having him run laps around the mat, and having him do constructive things like uchikomi with the elastic bands, to keep him engaged and active. I've tried getting him to make conscious choices like, "You have two choices. You can follow instructions and practice or you can sit down on the edge of the mat. Which do you choose." Nothing works, at least not for long.
I'm kind of at a loss. Do we have any experts with experience teaching ADHD or autistic students? I'd like to get some suggestions from you if you do.
I am not an expert in this area but we have special coaching and instructor certifications for teaching judo to various categories of disabled people and I obtained mine earlier this year. It's a serious program that contains both theory and practice and also involved having to do internships in jûdô clubs with groups that consider entirely of mentally, intellectually and several types of physical disabilities. We have extensive course materials and during the period I was doing the course I was also consulting the program and materials that some other countries have, as well as research the scholarly articles and theses that have been written on that. Particularly Germany and Holland have done some serious work in this area. In Germany several master's theses have been written on the topic.
So, what I am trying to say is that even though I have some experience now in teaching these people and am certified in it, I am not an expert. I do not have my own judo club for disabled jûdôka, nor have I been teaching large groups of people with mental or intellectual disabilities or autism in judo for 10 or 20 years on a weekly basis. However, I do have one or two people with autism in my group, but it is sufficiently mild that they can function in a group of people who does not have that problem. I also have a mentally disabled person in my club among the adults who is training with nondisabled jûdôka. What I have learnt from the course, from my own, experience, and from discussing with people who do have this specific expertise, is that when it comes to disabilities it is important to know the individual and his disability really well, because different individuals with the same disability may have that disability to a different degree and may react in a totally different way.
Attention to safety is important, attention to hygiene and discipline too; it needs to be clear that you are in charge and that when you say quiet that it is quiet then. At the same time you need to be ready for exaggerated reactions. Raising your voice, even if meant very well can trigger an exaggerated reaction and the person might serious feel you are now very angry on him and be shaken by it, when all you did was just drawing attention.
Familiarity with the environment and routine are important, and external signals or distractions may have an exaggerated response.
The major difference with the example you mention is that it is about a 7-old thus someone in the children's division. I teach our children's division on occasion if their sensei can't make it and the other one can't either. We have kids with behavioral problems and autism too, but because they are not my group I am not familiar with their exact condition. I also teach yearly clinics for children in other clubs, where there have regularly been children with such problems. One thing I do is to make clear to them that I do not and will not shout during my classes. I explain to them that when I speak they shut up and listen, and I tell them that if they do what I say they will have a pleasant time and if they don't then they won't.
I perceive that many children who behave erratically seek attention. I try to make clear to them that I will devote attention to them if they simply do what they say. If they try to disturb the class by doing erratic thing I tend to completely ignore it. An attention seeker who fails to attract attention in most cases will cease his attempts since they don't work. Not always, as it depends on the degree of their disorder. What strikes me though is that in most cases these are not bad kids, and by showing them kindness and attention and talk to them like they matter before and after class, they tend to behave better.
Something else that I want to mention, and that is probably controversial, but realize that I write this from an honest jûdô point of view and not to start a row. With a considerable time in jûdô I have learnt that there is a much, much nonsense in terms of history, training, etc, so I have always wanted to deepen my knowledge and dig as deep as possible to learn what jûdö is really about, what the history of jûdô really is, what techniques, kata, etc, really are, and that much of this information you won't find in federation where there often is a dislike for intellectual study. When researching jûdô for children, I was struck by the studies all showing results totally different from what jûdô federations tend to claim, and that jûdô had an outspoken negative effect on the socio-psychological development of children in terms of increased aggression, lower social skills, negative body image when having to deal with weightclasses and failing to make weight, etc. As studies were extended or expanded, and longitudinal studies were conducted, experiments were also done with adaptations of training programs, and to put it simply, it was not the jûdô per se that exerted this negative effect but the way jûdô was taught, more specifically, it was the competitive-oriented jûdô training that prompted increased negative effects in the development of children. When, however, type of training shifted towards traditional jûdô training with the term traditional meaning in the sense of Kanô with attention to values, including kata, avoiding shiai, and limit competitive oriented thing such as games, the effect of jûdô training in children in general and in children with behavioral problems specifically, the results became outspokenly negative. There was no need for poor self-image because not making weight for your competition weight class, no long a drive to divide children into winners and losers, etc.
These lessons I conscientiously apply in working with problematic children, so attention is on jûdô, involving basic things, but also kata, in particular SZKT and techniques from kime-shiki. I avoid formation of cliques among children, I encourage inter-gender participation, which is not always evident among chldren, and I am very careful with games. Virtually all of the games that are typically used in jûdô make the mistake of being competition-geared and again dividing people up in winners and losers. I try to imagine how it is if one is not strong, not fast, overweight, not the smartest, etc, and what game can be used that won't further stigmatize the kid who is not the ubiquitous winner. Jûdôkata tend to make the big mistake of taking only themselves as an example. We are the ones who stayed, who made it, who are blackbelts, instructors, woohooshidan-holders; these are not the ones who concern me. Who concerns me is all those others I started jûdô with and who have long quit; all the others in whom I have put time but who quit, all the others who accompanied me to contests and who saw me and wanted to do the same but who lost one fight after another and lost all self-confidence and dropped out. Those are the ones that matter, and those are the ones who conveniently are absent in the statistics of judo federation, because they are of course no longer members.
Children with behavioral problems are almost per definition pushed in that direction, so we must do even more to prevent them from becoming forgotten numbers, people who only lose, drop out and who will not make it. We can make a difference in there and doing so is our moral duty.