Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Taekwondo

I wish we could say that we, as the parents of a 14 year old, 3rd degree black belt, were so very clever and so keenly insightful that we began our Taekwondo experience with the end in mind, but that is not at all how it happened. _

The truth is that it began as a way to keep the 5 year old little brother occupied between the start of big sister’s dance class and the end of her class. Because the front door of the TKD studio was literally four doors down from the front door of the dance studio it seemed like a good enough idea. We had no clue at the time that it would end up being the very best thing we could ever have done for our son.

As any parent knows, each child develops at a different rate and all children face their own special challenges. Some 5 years olds can read but can’t hit a ball off the “T” to save themselves. Others can already ride a bicycle without training wheels but may not yet know their colors. You know what I mean. As a parent, the hope and the challenge is to coax improvement in the areas which are lacking so as to give them every advantage.

Rob’s special challenge was physical which is now hard to believe when you see him do a 360 twist kick. By this I mean that he literally had no idea where his body was and had little control of it. Later we learned that the medical term for this is Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Contributing to this was another condition called Strabismus which is often referred to as “lazy eye” for which he eventually had corrective eye surgery. When he was a little guy and I got my final kiss good-night I routinely held up my arm in a blocking maneuver to protect myself from the head-butt which was sure to come because he was unable to accurately judge how much force was required to move his body a given distance. As he got older we used to tease him that we had “charmed” the floor in the kitchen (this was back when Harry Potter was all the rage) because it seemed as though every time he walked across it he would fall down. Often he would simply fall off his chair at the dinner table, sitting still was an impossibility.

Peer pressure can work for you or against you. When he saw that his classmates could stand still in a straight line he learned that he could exercise self-control too. When all his classmates were advancing to a higher rank he wanted to advance too and he learned that hard work and perseverance are rewarded. The constant and repetitive physical and mental demands of learning Forms and Sparring were exactly what he needed. Taekwondo is a snap shot of all the honorable aspects of life included all within a 45 minute class. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail, but your personal integrity is what matters most. Did you try your hardest and do your best? Only you will know. Do you have the spirit to try it again? We have experienced the thrill of breaking the last board on the last try and advancing to the next belt level and we have experienced the utter agony of no-change.

My little guy is now almost as tall as I am and about to become a high school freshman. He is a good student and a hard worker, and he is a confident and courteous young man. Reality is that his opportunity to experience negative peer pressure is about to go up by a factor of a hundred, but I am extremely confident that he has the tools and the training to make the right choices thanks in no small part to Ms. Peck and all that she has taught on the way to developing a 3rd degree black belt and a junior instructor following the guidelines of Taekwondo America. His mother and I are very proud.

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