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Mixing Martial Arts and Autism

Eight-time jujitsu world champion Allan Goes and his wife, Carolina, have developed a class to help their autistic son and all other children with autism benefit from martial arts.

The first class started with me in tears, but things got a lot better.

Our first baby was a boy, and my husband immediately began his quest of sports dreams for his son. Dad wanted him to be a wrestler or a martial arts champion. Because of the discipline and structure that are required in martial arts, I agreed that would be the best sport for a kid.

When our oldest son was 2 and diagnosed with autism, it was like all the dreams were crushed for a bit. Since one of the manifestations of autism is that you don’t like being touched, I didn't think martial arts and wrestling would be good sports for a child with this condition.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Through an Autism Spectrum Disorders Moms group in Orange County, I was introduced to Allan Goes and his wife, Carolina. They have a martial arts studio in Mission Viejo called . Allan and Carolina have two sons—Igor and Kyle. Igor has studied Brazilian jujitsu since he was 3 years old. In 2007, when Kyle was born, the couple opened their studio in Mission Viejo.

Allan is an eight-time world champion. He has been teaching techniques since he was 16 years old. The gym offers classes for kids and adults who are interested in learning martial arts, self-defense and developing self-esteem.

When Kyle was diagnosed with autism, the couple still believed he could benefit from jujitsu, as Igor had. So professional athlete Allan and psychologist Carolina joined with their ABA therapists, supervisors and occupational therapists to develop a program for Kyle. They decided to extend it to all autistic kids in the community. They offer a once-a-week class for these kids, who already suffer from so much with labels, stereotypes and prejudice in addition to their neurological struggles.

My Franklin has been going for 2½ months. I left the first class crying because his deficits were thrown at me in neon lights, and he was having a horrible behavior day. Allan and Carolina were so gracious and just told me to step back and let them work and to trust and watch. Well, that was the hardest thing anyone had asked me to do in a long time.

But after a few weeks, Franklin started paying attention, participating a little, and this past week he spent more time on “the mat” with the class than he did in the corner or in the ring. He has developed a relationship with Allan and seeks him out. I left crying this week also, but they were tears of joy and amazement.

There are things that work for autism that you don’t expect. Sometimes the kids are capable of so much more than I think. 

The autism spectrum disorders class is every Wednesday at 4 p.m. Since they have started this class, the Goes have had autistic kids sign up for four days a week with neurotypical children and are having incredible results.

Moms are always grateful when someone offers something to their children. This class has chipped away at more of the shell that has enclosed my boy, and those are things that money can’t buy and things you cannot repay. It is rare that you find people with such heart. I truly feel blessed to have come across this amazing studio and wonderful couple and family for my children.

Vicky Theroux July 18, 2011 at 11:52 PM
great program! I have been teaching a therapeutic Taekwondo program in my dojang for 2 1/2 years. I am a pediatric Occupational Therapist is Harrison, Arkansas. I teach Choong Sil Taekwondo (CTF)
Rebecca Goddard July 19, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Thanks for the comment Vicky. I hope your program is proving successful to your students.
Victor Dizon July 20, 2011 at 07:58 AM
Well written article. Master Goes has an amazing heart and determination. What a discovery for him having such a personal experience with Kyle. Great job Rebecca!
Ben Smallwood July 25, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Thank you Rebecca for spotlighting this amazing program and the Goes family who runs it! Truly a service to the community.
Rebecca Goddard July 25, 2011 at 05:25 AM
Thank you Ben and Victor for joining the Patch for conversation. I love the Goes family and all they do for the ASD kids in the community. True selflessness.
Becky Lynn Hannah July 26, 2011 at 09:09 PM
Would love to find a program like this for my son! We live in the Dallas, TX area. Are you aware of any here?
Rebecca Goddard July 26, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Becky, I am not aware of anything in Dallas. I will forward this on my facebook to some Autism moms and see what we can come up with for you.

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