Testimonials

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Dear: Karate for All

 
As April comes to a close, Jeff and I are reminded of the fact that it was just a year ago that Brandon became a member of the Karate for All program, and I felt that this would be a most appropriate time to put a testimonial together for you, Wayne. Use all or part, but accept it with our most sincere thanks - we don't know how you do what you do with so many special needs children, but we are so very grateful that you do!

When Brandon first visited Karate for All for the very first time in April 2007, none of us was quite sure what to expect or whether or not he would want to join the program. All we knew, at the time, was that we were fed up with the constant taunting and teasing, public humiliation and personal frustration, and regular physical attacks against our son. We were, in fact, on the verge of signing him up to take some sort of physical defense class so that, at the very least, he could defend himself to some degree against his peers who regularly used physical violence as a way of hurting and humiliating Brandon, simply because he was "different."

At the time, we were just a year into the official diagnosis that confirmed that Brandon had Aspeger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. While my husband had, for nearly a year, suspected that was the case, only after the diagnosis did I begin to learn about the disability that Brandon will live with every day of his life. Over the course of the year following the diagnosis, I sought and received support and guidance from Brandon's elementary school principal and his teachers. While they held my hand nearly step of the way, what they couldn't do was counter the clear culture that most children are raised in at home: people that are "different" in a way that you can't see are to be ridiculed, ostracized, and picked on - no holds barred. Even my own sister-in-law announced one night that "we've always known there was something "wrong" with Brandon!"

 
The total benefit depends on each child. Brandon has realized more than I can specifically define, but for starters, he has gained a better sense of inner discipline, which is different than self discipline. He experiences a sense of calm every day that he goes to Karate for All; he isn't as loud or susceptible to peer behavior as he is in other social settings. He controls his responses much better for the most part, and doesn't express himself or spin out of control with frustration as he used to just a year ago. Wayne very clearly, gently, but definitively explains to all children that they are to treat each other with courtesy and respect, likewise with their families and the program volunteers. I'd say that Wayne also makes it clear that there are no exceptions in this regard, except that he doesn't have to say that - the children simply "get it."

Brandon has also experienced a level of confidence in himself that he's never had before. He's always known that he's scholastically above most of his school peers, but has never bragged or boasted about it, for fear of being called a "nerd." At Karate for All, there are no nerds, or weird kids, or fat kids, or goofy kids, ugly kids, etc. They're all accepted for who they are, for what they are, and they are all mutually respectful of each other, of Wayne, and the volunteers - always. Again, Wayne's never told them specifically to treat each other this way - what he does teach them simply leads them down this path. So for Brandon, this confidence comes from the true feeling of being accepted and fitting in, just the way he is.

One of the other things we've learned that Brandon has within himself that we never knew until he joined the program is that he has leadership skills and abilities that his peers recognize and respond to - without being told to. So much so that, on his report cards this year in middle school, one of his teachers has identified these skills as well. Who knew? I'll tell you who knew: Wayne Centra!

Given all of these things, Brandon has handled himself much better away from the program over the last year, which has resulted in a much less stressful life for him. He responds differently to overt unkind or violent behavior - sure, he still gets his feelings hurt once and a while, and a couple of instances of violence against Brandon have occurred this year, but he's responded to them differently, managed his behavior better, and overall, has moved on. The best way to describe how Karate for All has affected Brandon in these instances, and in every day of his life is that he always leaves the session holding his head a little higher, walking a little taller, and more at peace with his life than I every thought would be possible.

He feels liked, respected, loved, accepted, and ohmygosh-I-can't-even-believe-I'm-saying-this: Popular!! for the first time in his life. And, really, what more could a parent ask for?!!? Karate for All has even been responsible for a "trimming down" and growing up (maturity) in Brandon - just one more benefit of the program he enjoys every day! With all the other benefits I've mentioned above, I feel that Karate for All has truly given Brandon a second shot at happiness in his life - and me, my husband, and Brandon's older sister are very grateful to Wayne and proud of Brandon for that. 'Nuff said.

Vicki