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Autism Power

By Rochelle E. Brenner

There was a time when a kid with autism didn't belong in a karate school. That time has ended: Action Karate has one-on-one special needs classes. We have instructors on the spectrum. We have Black Belts on the spectrum. We have people on the spectrum who are some of the most inspiring, dedicated students in class.

That's why Action Karate is partnering with Philadelphia City Councilman (at-Large) Derek Green, who is pioneering opportunities for students with autism in the city.

This Sunday, August 28 from 1 to 5 pm at Smith Playground, is the 5th Annual Autism Play Date. Action instructors will be there with giveaways and an interactive lesson of blocks called "Ninja Power."

Councilman Green may use political parrying skills from his time in office, moves inspired by Bruce Lee's The Last Dragon, or he may pull from the years he spent alongside his son in karate and yoga classes. But he is going to make sure that all the students and families who come fully get to experience the martial arts opportunity with total Ninja Power.

He planned this event over the last five years and this is the first time Action Karate is participating. He said opportunities were hard to come by when his now-adult son with autism was growing up and parents need to know that support is out there.

“They think there’s not a lot of activity for a child on the spectrum. They don’t know they can come to a great location like Action Karate and learn karate.“

The event will include food trucks, play activities and social bonding.

"It is a great day to enjoy being around other families that have children on the spectrum. It’s a great opportunity for young people their parent and guardian to come out. "

An RSVP is requested, but visitors will not be turned away.

"What really inspired me is I have a child on the autism spectrum. The goal really was to bring a lot of programs together in one place in a fun safe environment. For us my wife and I had to find out -- can my son go to this program basketball or how to do yoga or other activities. ... Yes you can do things with your child regardless of physical and learning differences.

Action Karate has locations in Philadelphia neighborhoods including Mt. Airy, Manayunk, South Philly, Parkwood, Northern Liberties and Brewerytown as well as the surrounding suburbs and South Jersey.

Trained social workers and educators helped Action Karate create classroom experiences that help benefit students with Autism. A new one-on-one class is launching this fall that includes a similarly aged peer working one-on-one with each student. Both students benefit from this dynamic of being challenged, engaged and supported. The hope is that some students at the Autism Play Date gain a love of martial arts and go on to become our future black belts.

"I’m glad Action Karate will be one of our partners," Councilman Green said.

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