October 27, 2014

Paul Prendergast Karate

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:18 am by autismmommytherapist

Karate 05

Given that my youngest son (who has high-functioning autism) literally has more energy than any human being on earth, I am always in search of outlets for that energy. As luck would have it Zach’s case manager happened to mention Paul Prendergast Karate to me two years ago, and I decided to give them a call.

I explained Zach’s dual diagnosis of ADHD/autism and launched into a litany of his strengths and weaknesses, a monologue which I’m certain lasted for at least ten minutes. At the end I finally took a breath, remembered the concept that a conversation is generally two-sided, and waited.

The words “bring him in we can’t wait to meet him” were music to my ears.

I decided to interview Master Paul recently because I like to promote people and businesses whom I deem “autism-friendly” whenever possible. Master Paul shared with me that he was a self-described “lazy kid” who took to karate with gusto after his first lesson, an enthusiasm he summoned later in life when he acknowledged the hospitality business was not for him. He realized he truly wanted to work with kids, help them to be their best selves, and facilitate their realizing their dreams.

And out of that desire, Paul Prendergast Karate was born.

During the course of the interview Master Paul told me that he had been a “terrible student who probably has undiagnosed ADD,” a situation he felt was never handled well by his teachers. He recalled an incident in which a teacher called him “retarded” for not understanding a biology concept, and remembers the sting of it to this day.

But instead of letting this episode destroy him, in typical PPK fashion he has instead allowed it to shape how he wants his special needs students to be treated.

And that philosophy translates to making certain he and all his instructors treat those with special needs (and those without) with compassion and respect, and has engendered a neverending quest to solicit their best from them.

The key to the success of this philosophy is of course communication, both between staff members and between staff and family. Families are encouraged to share victories with the instructors so the students can be recognized in class; they are also encouraged to share any difficulties transpiring in their lives so staff can be sensitive to their needs.

There are weekly staff meetings to discuss students’ progress, where Master Paul encourages his instructors to “know their students; if they’re not getting it, figure out why.” Feeling that every child is an individual means the instruction is tailored to the students’ needs. Master Paul shared with me that he likes to be “proactive and not have to put out fires”- he encourages his staff to find the successes in each session, then use praise and reward to help children achieve their goals. His catch phrase is “behavior recognized and rewarded is often repeated.”

Amen to that.

I personally feel that karate has aided Zach immensely, from helping him focus to emphasizing the importance of respect (plus it tires him out, which I especially love.) Although it hasn’t helped him learn to clean his room (they’ll work on that with you if you want) I’ve come to see a more confident child emerge over the last two years, and I credit PPK with contributing to this growth. I don’t know how long Zach will wish to pursue karate, but at the moment he’s happy, his mom is thrilled, and my kid gets to feel good about what he’s doing several times per week.

In the end, there’s not much more you can ask for from an after-school activity.

Brick location: (732) 477-8451

Toms River location: (732) 255-0563

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  1. My boys are black belts in TKD (taekwondo) and they loved it! I am happy yours does too! xo

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