Thursday, June 17, 2010

Local Martial Arts Instructor Helps Area Special Needs Children

By Tamara Best

Almost every Sunday for the last five years, Tim Bevan has spent his mornings at All the Buzz dance studio on Myrtle Avenue.

There in a room accented with bright green and purple walls, Mr. Tim as he is known at the studio, teaches autistic children tae kwon do.

“I try to cater to each kids individual needs,” said, Bevan, adding that the children ranging from being almost non-verbal to having advanced communication skills.

But regardless of level, he said each student has potential to grow.

“We always start with baby steps, everything is progression.”

The idea for the classes began with owner Sandra Olenick, whose friend had an autistic son and was looking for physical activities to strengthen and challenge her child.

“All kids should be able to take whatever they want, they all have the right to enjoy different things,” Olenick said.

Physical activities, such as martial arts, can help promote increased attention, calming, improve motor planning, decrease stereotypical behaviors and body awareness in autistic children, according to Deborah Riccardi, of Association for the Help of Retarded Children, a local group offering services to those with developmental disabilities.

Louise Marchini, with AHRC, said that inclusion in physical activity is important for children with special needs and teaching children tolerance.

“Kids with autism are no different than the next kid—they experience both the mental and physical health benefits of fitness just like everyone else,” she said. “Too often, people with developmental disabilities are segregated within the community, even at school or other extra curricular activities.”

And area parents say they are thankful for the outlet.

“It’s so hard tough to find classes for special needs children,” said Nelli Muller, whose 10-year old son Paul, attends the class. “When he came it was impossible to get him to sit on the floor. He has changed dramatically,” she said. Joe Sasso, who often accompanies his 10-year-old grandson

Joe to the class, said Bevan’s background helps the students make progress.

“The teacher is unbelievable, he’s worth his weight in gold,” he said with a smile.

Bevan, who caps each of the classes at five students, said smaller size classes helps students from getting “lost in the shuffle.”

Students go through a series of exercises such as the superman stretch, where they lay on the floor with their arms and legs in the air, imitating the flying motion of Superman, to help them warm up and focus.

And then the work begins.

Legs and fists fly in the air as they hit a punching bag as they track their progress via full length mirrors at the front of the room. And after all the jumps, kicks and punches, students prepare for the “Four Way Punch.”

“Jumbie… cross… step back…low block… target… step…punch!” Bevan calls out to students, who repeat the routine turning 90 degrees each time, until they have completed a circle. “They learn initially through imitating me, then it’s something they do on their own,” he said.

At 2 p.m., Bevan leaves after completing another day of training. And his assessment of progress made is based on a simple formula.

“I measure success by if a kid wants to come back.”

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