Almost a year ago, when Colin was having a difficult time at school, Chris and I were feeling a little bit lost on what we could do to help improve the behaviors we hadn't seen before. We felt as though we were doing everything we could at school but were searching for something else outside of school that would help on our end. We had heard about Karate from the kids' daycare because once a month, the karate school would go in and do a lesson with the kids. We got the contact information for Paul Prendergast Karate and gave them a call for a trial lesson. They were aware that Colin had a disability from when I called, but they assured me that Colin was welcome to join them.
After the trial lesson, Colin was immediately interested and so we set it up for him to begin taking lessons. Although lessons are typically done in a class, we all felt it would be best for Colin to begin in private lessons until he had learned some of the basics and the routines of Karate before entering into the class. In addition, private lessons were a bit shorter than the class, so that was another reason we thought it would be better. Our goal in having Colin participate in Karate was for him to learn and get into a routine with the activity and physical fitness part of it but also, take away lessons like discipline, respect, and confidence since Karate is integrated with those major components. After his private lessons, he would always take a few minutes to watch the class and eventually, he started expressing interest on his own in participating in class. He naturally progressed on his own into the class and demonstrated he was ready by talking about it and asking to join.
We have been so proud of Colin for all that he has learned in the past (almost) year and it has been fun watching him progress from class to class. However, what surpasses these feelings are the ones that have to do with the instructors and the level of patience and understanding they have in working with Colin. There are classes where Colin is perfect and other classes where he might need a little bit of extra help. By the end of the summer, Colin was making it an entire 45 minute class with very rarely so much as a hiccup, but when school started, we found that since he was so exhausted at the end of the day, he didn't want to participate. After a month, and a LOT of patience and work by the instructors, he is finally getting back into a routine again.
Despite the fact we all struggled this past month, not one person made us feel like it was time for Colin to go. In fact, we had many conversations about how we could continue to push through and what modifications could be done to make so that Colin COULD be successful and eventually, get back to the place he had been.
I am filled with gratitude when I think about Paul Prendergast Karate because they have welcomed Colin into their dojo (as well as other students with disabilities) and work hard to make sure that he is a valued and successful member of each class he attends. They treat Colin like he is any other student in there, but also recognize that there are times when HIS challenges make things a little bit more difficult for him and are flexible to help him in those moments.
When a student is included into their community, it means that community accepts them for their differences and recognize the individual they are. It means that they teach others that differences are ok (just by welcoming them and including them) and that although they sometimes might act different or need more assistance, it doesn't mean they don't have a place there with everyone.
Colin is accepted, he is valued, he is included at Paul Prendergast Karate.