May 7, 2019

Paul Prendergast Karate

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 11:41 am by autismmommytherapist

After months of training, and six years of lessons, this past weekend my son officially became a black belt in karate.

I am insanely, ridiculously proud of him.

Zach is not really a “sports kid,” and a number of the requirements for the seven to eight hour exam were arduous for him. Among other requirements he had to complete numerous situps and pushups, five hundred kicks, and most difficult for him, a two mile run.

I trained with him. I think for a good deal of it he hated my guts, but he agreed it paid off in the end.

There were times over the past six years I wasn’t sure Zach would be able to go the distance. Sometimes his concentration was lacking- at times he didn’t want to practice. Overall however he was able to focus on the goal he wanted, work incredibly hard for it, and never give up.

And even with all that hard work he never would have achieved this if it weren’t for the vision of Master Paul Prendergast and the dedication and patience of the men and women at Paul Prendergast Karate.

During Zach’s initial years at karate he was not the easiest pupil some days. When he was really little he lacked focus and was impulsive, neither of which are really conducive to advancing in ranks. With time and maturity he came into his own, but I am confident he never would have gotten to this place without his instructors.

Their compassion and commitment to Zach lasted the entire six years he’s been at the school. They knew instinctively when to push him, and when to hang back and let him figure things out for himself. He was always encouraged to be his best, and to work at his own pace during classes. The curriculum does not just pertain to karate moves however – it also has a focus on self-betterment, including school achievement, behavior, and character development, all of which helped Zach become a more well-rounded person.

Zach was always told he could achieve what he wanted as long as he dedicated himself fully to it. And I am happy to say after these past two weekends, the staff at PPK were right.

I have felt for years that there are two activities in Zach’s life which will help him be confident in adulthood. One is scouting, which among other things has taught him most importantly to self- advocate. The other is karate, where he has not only learned to defend himself, but has learned how much he can stretch himself to achieve goals that at times seemed out of his grasp. I truly feel his time at karate has helped prepare him for college, enhanced his academics, and increased his self-confidence many times over.

I can’t recommend this program enough for any kid who is different, who desires self-confidence, or needs to develop self-discipline.

And I can’t recommend enough the staff at PPK for helping my son achieve all of these things.

Thank you Paul Prendergast Karate!


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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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