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A special kind of question.

Discussion in 'Standup Technique' started by Zoti, Oct 11, 2010.

  1. Zoti

    Zoti Brown Belt

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    So, I'm giving some private classes to an Kid who has autism. He is 16 y/o. We have good communication but he is very, very passive and his mother would like to get him to be more aggressive.

    I've been trying to teach him how to punch correctly but it's not really working. He won't get things like footwork or keeping your hands up or even punching with your knuckles. He keeps going back to hitting with the palm of the hand. Kind of like girly punches.

    I'm aware I'm not going to build a Muay Thai champion here but this is done for the benefit of excursive and if he learns some aggression in the way them great.

    I was wondering if anyone here has some experience working with people like that and can give me some tips.
     
  2. mjw1

    mjw1 Blue Belt

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    Perhaps objects like bungee cords and focus mitts
     
  3. TripLikeIDo

    TripLikeIDo Green Belt

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    I've never taught Muay Thai or grappling to an autistic student, but as a teacher I worked with quite a few.
    I don't know how much you know about autism, but there are many different types and levels so it'll take some experimenting on your side since it sounds like the mother is open to it.
    I'd make it more physical and less abstract since the students I worked with enjoyed the physical contact. Skip striking and go to the clinch and keeping balance by trying to stay upright while you move him around. Lots of repetition and you should be leading it so he knows what action to imitate. Verbalize your action with short phrases over and over again so he knows what to expect when you say those phrases.
    I think the main thing to remember is many autistic people learn physical skills through repetition and imitation rather than through what we'd see as logical reasoning.
    Sounds like you have the right attitude, so don't feel like you haven't accomplished much if you spend hour after hour just in the clinch without throwing any punches or knees.
     
  4. barnowl

    barnowl Green Belt

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    I have taught 2 autistics, both had different types/levels. TriplikeIdo is pretty on the mark here. You can work on strikes, but you are are going to have to do a lot work with a striking pad to provide contact/visual clue as you teach the basic motions. You may be surprised and find they have a knack for a certain type of strike or getting power in to one tech. but nothing on an other.
     
  5. Zoti

    Zoti Brown Belt

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    The mom is very open. She's a nurse and works with a Dr. friend / student of mine. But, she wants him to be more aggressive in case someone confronts him.

    I know there are many levels of autism and I will describe this young man (16 y/o) as mentally being about 5-6 y/o. We talk about video games and "The Rock". He is showing interest in girls even though he doesn't obviously understand why.

    I tried to work grappling with him but it appears he is VERY ticklish. His mom says it is a symptom of autism so grappling is out of the question. I resort to striking and we warm up and also do some stretches. I give him some coordinations drills but I have to admit that the results are not what I want. We do some basic rolls like shoulder rolls and such and if I compare it with my kids BJJ class then I have to say I have more success there.

    What I'm trying to do is find the correct drills for him. Stuff that will make him sweat and improve. I tried to teach him how to kick the bag but I can't get him to kick above shin height. So we resort to that.

    Funny thing is, I put him on the speed bag and he got the speed bag timing better than most adult students get in the first time. :)
     
  6. KyleInAction

    KyleInAction ***HOPKINS BELT***

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    I know that I've read that autistic people fixate more on patterns than social imagery; it's possible that he simply "gets" the back and forth pattern of the speed bag. Has he tried the double-ended bag? I would be curious to see how well he does on it.

    Are your intentions mainly to improve his confidence? Given his affliction and it's symptoms (ticklish), I can't see him being entirely effective if he were ever confronted, unfortunately. But the mental strength it will impart is, without a doubt, priceless.
     
  7. Wow Exuberant**

    Wow Exuberant** Banned Banned

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    Try not to over complicate things, I'd just ask him very slowly to throw a jab, then go slightly faster and faster each time. Drill The techniques into him.
     
  8. Brooklyn

    Brooklyn Green Belt

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    You might be on to something. He might have naturally good timing. Maybe you should put a focus on drills related to timing. He might gravitate towards it. It's worth a try.
     
  9. TripLikeIDo

    TripLikeIDo Green Belt

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    Break down the skill you're trying to teach into two or three verbal skills and one movement accompanies each command so it's almost robotic.
    e.g. with a non-autistic student you might say, "When you're throwing a punch, it starts with the proper foot position, and the power comes from your hips...." or whatever.
    The autistic kid might remember 'foot position' or 'throwing a punch' from that instruction.
    So instead you'd say "Hands Up" "Heel-toe" (looking at your feet) "Weight Back" (overemphasize a bit) You look at him and make corrections based on his stance. Have him drop down in push up position, then get back up in stance and repeat it again and again. You demonstrate it many times without clouding your instruction with extra words.
    Keep coming back to your key words so they get drilled into his head and since it's a private instruction and the mom's a nurse she'll be happy to see him making any progress even if it's just interacting in a healthy way with another adult.

    edit:
    Zoti, if you haven't seen this video by Temple Grandin, I think you might find it informative and interesting too:
    Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds | Video on TED.com
    Although not directly related to your situation, it'll help to explain the autistic mind.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  10. c0r1nth14n

    c0r1nth14n Blue Belt

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    I have some experience with autistic children. One really important thing, especially with the more serious cases of autism, is to break things down into tiny steps. The example I've often heard from people who teach autistic kids professionally involves toasting bread. To teach a non-autistic person to toast bread, you might say something like this:

    - get bread
    - put it in the toaster
    - start the toaster


    To teach an autistic child to toast bread, you need like, twenty steps. It should look like this:

    - open the cupboard with the bread
    - take down the bread bag
    - open the bread bag
    - remove two slices of bread

    and so on, and so on. If he's having trouble learning stuff, you might try reviewing the steps you're teaching, and making them as basic as possible. Also be sure that your expectations aren't too high for what he should be learning each day - it's easy to get frustrated that way.
     
  11. Zoti

    Zoti Brown Belt

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    Thanks formal the advice. I'll try some things and see how it goes.
     
  12. SpineBreaker

    SpineBreaker Orange Belt

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    You've got to do more than try to teach him things. It's a mental barrier, so you're going to have to try and get a little spiritual, IMO.
     
  13. Dogmeat

    Dogmeat Blue Belt

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    I've got to say, I'm impressed. I really didn't think I'd see the well informed posts I'm seeing here. Maybe I've been bowsing the Heavyweights forum for too long.

    I have an autistic brother (severe autism, no speach).

    Autism is a very wide spectrum. At one end you have the seemingly normal guys who just can't function in conversation and at the other you have full on incontinent adults with no interaction or ability to communicate.

    The advice in this thread has been spot on. If you over complicate you'll lose him. He'll simply lose interest or will filter out what he can't handle and stick with what is comfortable. You can point out that he needs to hit with his knuckles, but while he's concentrating on that he won't throw a punch because he's distracted by his hand.

    Other students (even kids) can get into training because they can see what it is working towards. Autistic kids don't always 'get' cause and effect and focus on where they are at the moment. They also find routines and hate to deviate.

    For example, you're saying "kick the bag" and he's kicking at shin height. He has now kicked the bag. "Kick the bag" = hit it at shin height. You now try to explain that he needs to kick higher. You show him the technique, maybe even help him through it. You say "kick the bag" and he goes back to what he has 'filed away' as "kick the bag" and kicks it at shin height.

    It's infuriating, it's hard to break through and it takes patience, understanding and selfless hours spent in conditioning. That's why people who work with the autistic are goddam saints.

    Just one question though - I would be concerned about his mother wanting to make him "more aggressive". Autistic teenagers and young men get frustrated as they get older as they can't communicate what they want (or understand certain urges) and can lash out. I'd be concerned about encouraging 'aggression' in someone who already has difficulty integrating into the world.
     
  14. c0r1nth14n

    c0r1nth14n Blue Belt

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    This is a great point. It may sound like something from the Karate Kid, but you may want to talk to him about when it's appropriate to be aggressive. A friend of mine with very light autism, he started taking BJJ and got a lot out of it (new friends, self-confidence, got past his aversion to being touched), so I do think that martial arts can be helpful. You want to make sure you don't overdo it, though.
     
  15. ktrp

    ktrp Green Belt

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    My son is 4, has autism. Very interested in this thread, like this boy's mother, I'd like him to learn, one day, to stick up for himself if required.

    I think rule number 1 is - what works, works. Pay attention more to how things are actually going then what people say should happen.

    I wanted to reinforce two things that were said that seemed contradictory, but both are true:

    1) break things down into the smallest step possible, and progress to the next step when that one is mastered. This is THE way to teach things that need to be taught. I'll use a (real) example that most autistic kids go through. Each of these is a separate 'program', i.e. practiced until they get it 80% plus over more than one session:
    - looks at eyes when told 'look at my eyes' with a reinforcer (i.e. chocolate)
    - looks at eyes when told 'look at my eyes' without a reinforcer
    - looks at eyes when called by name
    - looks at eyes when called by name by someone other then therapist
    - looks at eyes when called by name while playing
    - hold eye contact for 3 seconds + with reinforcer ...
    (etc.)

    I'd suggest thinking of 4 or 5 things you want to work on, and think 'what is the smallest incremental improvement we could make in this area'. For example, you might spend 3-5 minutes, 4 or 5 times/session practicing bumping a bag with the knuckles. When that is mastered, you go to bumping the bag with knuckles. When that is mastered, you go to bumping the bag with full arm extension (slowly) with knuckles, etc.

    The second point is to look for areas where he can just get the feel of it on his own. I'm amazed by the skills my son is able to pick up without any help. His spacial skills are great, his balance is great, and he is clever as hell. He just tends to exist in his own world 70% of the time (down from 90, woohoo!). If he has a good feel for the speedbag, great, let him 'play' with it. In areas where he can essentially teach himself, let it happen, in areas where you need to teach, you break it down incredibly small.

    BTW, autism therapy can easily keep you employed for life :p
     
  16. Dogmeat

    Dogmeat Blue Belt

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    My brother always had an incredible sense of balance because he had absolutely no fear. As a young child he would escape out of the house and we would find him in some terrifying positions but daren't call out to him in case we distracted him or scared him. Highlights include -

    - Balancing on one leg on tip toe with his head and other leg perfectly horizontal like a ballet dancer on the very tip of the 2-story roof to peer over a neighbour's wall

    - Hanging through a window above a sheer drop by nothing but his toes (no concept of "how do I get back inside?").

    - Calmly tightrope walking across a bar on some scafholding because he was fascinated by the shapes in the frame. No concept of the HUGE drop below him

    And yes, we did try to keep him secure in the house, but this is a kid who took apart the playpen we put him in at 2 years old and left it neatly stacked in the corner with all the bolts and nuts sorted and piled up according to size...
     
  17. Zoti

    Zoti Brown Belt

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    I need to see a picture of this playpen.

    Anyway, I think I'm making some progress. I got him to kick higher and with more aggression. I also worked with him today about moving away when someone is trying to hit you.

    To get him to kick higher I simply moved him from the 6ft bag to the knee/teardrop. The lowest point of that bag is about waist height so you can't kick it under. We resorted to push kicks (well, a version of I might add) but I got him to do it with aggression. This young man seem to have no aggression in him.

    Then, after he kicked the bag I just told him I'm going to try and touch his face and he should move away and just repeated it again and again.

    I also spoke today to another trainer at the gym (she's a personal trainer. Not martial arts). She works with a lot of people that have had injuries. Stuff like strokes etc. I asked her advice and she had some good ideas I'm going to try and use.

    She said that she just got her first autistic client. He's 27 and apparently super aggressive. He comes with a parent and sometimes a caregiver and she did say they have to restrain him sometimes. She also said he likes to sniff people's butt (seriously. She said he finally stopped sniffing hers). So at least there is some comic relief here. I wouldn't know what to do but laugh if someone does that to me. :)
     
  18. KickFromHell

    KickFromHell Black Belt

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    Great to hear that you have some success :) Hope you will have enough patience and he will learn more
     

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