Attacking the Senses

A unique martial arts program helps kids with ADHD and other special needs.

Is your child struggling with ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Autism/Aspbergers, or other learning and memory disorders? Do those struggles include having a hard time fitting in, difficulty making new friends, or a lack of interest in most physical activities? Now there is a program that can help.

Sensory Taekwon-Do is a unique Martial Arts Program for children as young as 4 through 18 years old. It is a breakthrough martial arts program custom designed to fit each child's neurological profile. The core of this program is extracted from cutting edge neurological studies that incorporate movement exercise to help create healthier pathways in the brain. By stimulating areas in the brain that incorporate balance, body awareness, muscle coordination, strength and working memory, Sensory Taekwon-Do promotes growth and improves connectivity. Children are often affected by a wide range of symptoms. To be effective, treatment requires a whole brain, whole body approach. This is achieved by incorporating a very personal, diverse one on one treatment program which includes nutritional coaching. All sessions are held in a warm, encouraging environment where young students can remain active while strengthening concentration, self confidence, coordination, mood, verbalization, social interactions, and independence. Sensory Taekwon-Do also incorporates the senses during each session. The auditory senses are stimulated by playing music specifically designed to right brain and left brain functions. Visual senses are used when students are modeling the instructor. Vestibular encompasses balance, and this is worked on heavily during every child's session. Proprioceptive involves the sense of position of your body parts. Students must use this sense to focus on where they are placing their own body parts as they are performing the martial art exercise. The tactile or sense of touch is brought in throughout the program with the climbing wall, balls and other equipment that is used during the group.

The acclaimed program was created by and is run by Dr. Kerry Escamilla, a licensed chiropractor and 2nd Degree Black Belt in Taekwon-Do. He has advanced training in neurology and functional medicine with an emphasis on early childhood spectrum disorders. Conducting years of brain research and biomedical interventions, Dr. Escamilla has treated many children using a unique whole brain/whole body approach to treatment that has its roots in his marital arts background. As a 2nd degree black belt, he also knows the benefits martial arts have for children with special needs. It has shown to improve concentration and focus by providing a consistent and highly structured environment. In fact, his program has now evolved to include sensory integration therapies and nutritional interventions, making it a truly whole body/whole brain approach to treatment. According to Dr. Escamilla, "As a child I struggled with symptoms of ADHD. My ability to learn and have empathy were intact, however impulsivity, distraction, anxiety, and disorganization was a challenge."

He went on to college and became a doctor of chiropractic, which emphasizes a holistic and healthy lifestyle. Throughout school Dr. Escamilla realized a strong interest in neurology. Six years into practice he began to study Taekwondo. Two years later, he began to notice some significant improvement in the areas that he had previously struggled. Fast forward ten years. A 5 year old girl with behavioral issues motivated him to find more answers. He attended a series of seminars on early child learning and behavioral disorders that taught intricate details of brain function and treatment theories. Dr. Escamilla put them into practice with the same little girl and within a short time the family saw dramatic changes in her behavior. In 2006 he enrolled in a Functional Neurology diplomat program and read everything he could on the subject. Soon after, Dr. Escamilla began melding Taekwondo, Occupational therapy, and functional neurology into one fun, challenging and successful program. A strong desire to help more children inspired him to build a Taekwondo school of his own with instructors trained to understand and work with children on the spectrum. This also allowed him more freedom to focus on the functional neurology and nutritional needs of the children. The cultural aspects, along with the disciplines built into the martial arts makes for a fantastic behavioral and functional neurology assessment tool. While children move along the curriculum, they encounter challenges in behavior and movement. Instructors are trained in observational skills to spot issues that require therapeutic interventions gained from functional neurology and understanding ASD's thought process.

Dr. Escamilla explains, "Our parent testimonials speak for themselves. We consistently break through in environmental and self-awareness, coordination, socialization, verbalizations, engagement, academics and performing TKD!" In the end this all adds to a mentally and physically healthier child.

Dr. Kerry Escamilla is the Creator and Director of Sensory Taekwon-Do, located at 155 South Washington Ave., Bergenfield. Find out more about their innovative programs for children and adults, afterschool classes, and birthday parties by calling (201)384-2424. You can also visit them online at www.sensorytkd.com.