View Full Version : Teaching Special Needs Students

20th September 2000, 05:53
I am curious as to your experiences in teaching students with various degrees of physical and/or mental handicaps. I currently have a two students, both in their teens, both female. One is Downs Syndrome, mainstreaming in school and very well supported by her family (they all train too). I also have a fairly new student with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, very extreme emotional patterns, but tremendous desire and pretty good physical control, however somewhat aggressive.

They present vastly different teaching challenges, but I have been stressing fundamentals with enthusiastic encouragement. I am not as exacting as to the correctness of the movements, especially with the DS girl, however she can do a 25 step kata fairly accurately, which is a fabulous achievement for a child with that kind of challenge.

Please share your experiances in this environment, what worked and what didn't. How did you feel about teaching these students, and did you find it help you improve as a teacher?

Thanks for your thoughts,

20th September 2000, 19:16
Hi Kevin,

Although I haven't taught people with mental handicaps, I have taught people who were physically handicapped.

In the case of people who were blind...needless to say we work off of touch. I show them how when I grab their hand or arm etc...how this contact tells them not only my weight distribution, but which leg or arm I'm going to kick / hit them with. Along with whether my strike is a low one or a high one. In addition to this I teach them how to strike, grapple, and how to fall.

The majority of disabled people I've worked with have required canes due to anything from car accidents, birth defects, age, or degenerative conditions. For these people I teach them how to use their cane as a striking and a grappling weapon. The most difficult individual in this regard was a yong man who attended a seminar I taught in Puerto Rico ( hosted by Adalberto Rosario ). He had two canes ( one of his legs was shorter than the other...so he had a platform shoe in addition to help level him out ).

He showed up because I was teaching a stick fighting seminar. For him I taught how to stabilize himself by using both feet and one cane to act as a tripod while stiking with the other. Then pivoting to use this cane to form a tripod and striking with the other cane. I showed him how to grapple with the canes as well as strategies for dealing with attackers while he was sitting down be it at a bus stop or restaraunt etc.

What were some of the strategies you used for teaching people with downs syndrome ( granted not all of these are universal...but what seemed to work for you the most )?

Eric :)

20th September 2000, 22:09
Hi Kevin,

I don't know if this would be any help, but I posted a thread on Attention Deficit Disorder/ADD.

I had some success with my student. She progressed well until her father's job had to transfer the family to Utah.

21st September 2000, 06:22
Yikes the ADD topic sure generated some lengthy comments, I will digest that over the next few days, Thanks Sam.

Eric, after a few weeks of training the student felt confortable with physical contact (usually best to avoid initially) I also have both parents and older sister in the dojo too, they all train together. I would demonstrate the technique or movement on another family member, such as the correct hand position for a block, by moving their hand/arm into correct position, then gently do the same for her, followed by enthusiastic encouragement (ALWAYS ENCOURAGE LOUDLY...btw I'm near deaf from too much loud music and Kiai)

Being goofy in class helps, as it breaks the barriers and fear special needs students have. She does have something I have never witnessed in 17 years of training, the most natural kiai I've ever heard. It comes right out of the belly and has an animal like quality to it. Very cool and I point out how PERFECTLY she does it to the whole class.

If you get my drift, encouragement is the key I use. I have promoted her, along with the rest of the family (who are very competent)with narry a murmer from fellow instructors, mentors or other students. We are generally of the opinion that if she can essentially manage to complete a 25 step kata, it is roughly the equivalent of us "normal" folk completing a black belt form in front of a board.

Thank you all for your input.
Kevin Schaller

22nd September 2000, 17:44
Hi Kevin,

I also enjoy using humor, I agree it's great for taking the edge off of things. Thanks for sharing an inspiring story :)

Eric Bookin

William F. Kincaid
11th October 2000, 21:15
First time posting to this particular forum. Even though I don't consider myself a great teacher I am all our town has in judo at the moment.lol. I recently have been given the pleasure to train a 16 yr old with a Mild mental handicap ( I loathe the term retardation, sorry). While he seems able to learn the techniques, I cannot seem to get him motivated at all. It is almost like he has bought into the idea that he is slow and just has accepted that is the way he has to live his life now. What I was wondering is if any of you have had this problem and how you handled it???

12th October 2000, 23:47
Hi William,

The people as I've indicated before were physically handicapped, but what you wrote struck a cord with me. They too had gotten used to the idea that they would be slower in some things or just unable to do them.

While some handicaps actually did prevent them from doing things, I found that when the things they could do were held to the same standards as others ( ie not being able to walk except for when they had two canes, blind, physical deformities etc ). They took a great deal of pride in recognizing that they could do things as well as the others. From here it became a matter of showing them variations of what they could do in order to make their handicaps either work for them or in other cases how to best build around their limitations so that they felt confident in their ability to defend themselves.

My experience has been that when held up to standards they rose to the occation, they know when they're being alowed to slide, and when held accountable is when they've found their belief in themselves and self-esteem.

Hope that helps, best of luck.

Eric Bookin