Since I have seen this issue pop up from time to time, and somewhat often - I thought it would be a good idea and necessary to post this. I hope that it will help if it applies directly or indirectly to you.
(To anyone else struggling with behaviour or aggression issues)
My advice is simply an alternative suggestion for aggression & behaviour issues. Sometimes as we know there are many reasons for aggression and behaviour that we do not like, or that we are told is happening in school or other places and even at home. Sometimes it's unusual or random and sometimes it's what I call person or location specific. My son (who has Ds) is only 8.5 months old and while I can not give you advice based on my own child in what I am about to explain, I have results from those who do have Down syndrome who participated in what I am going to suggest. Also I have practical, personal and specialized career training/experience in a few fields like Policing and Martial Arts so I was wondering if you might consider the following.
I have heard many times from a few mothers who have children with special needs such as Down syndrome, Autism and ADHD, that behaviour sometimes specifically aggression has become an issue for them. (I also run a YMCA group for children with special needs.)
Knowing their concerns I tell them this: I am a second degree black belt Tae-Kwon Do (Martial Arts) instructor. I have been teaching this martial art as a Black Belt instructor for around 15 years, and my class mainly consisted of children between the ages of 4-18. (The adult classes were fewer). Since I was/have been always involved with special needs events, on occasion I offered to teach children who had special needs and also typical children with behaviour issues. Because my major focus in teaching this art was to promote healthy activities and self discipline, many of the families continued to return and re-en-roll their children when they noticed major changes in attitudes and behaviours. I know from taking on the challenge of trying and successfully eventually changing children's behaviours of some who were getting into serious trouble with the law (I am an active Police Officer of 13 years) that this kind of activity makes remarkable changes due to working with motivating self image, self esteem and of course as I mentioned discipline. It works in ways that are fun, healthy and also useful (for self defence).
Now, I am no longer teaching Tae-Kwon Do in the school/ "Do-Jang" setting because of my severe back injuries from Policing, but I still promote it's advantages for youth and adults. You do not have to find a class that specifically teaches children who have special needs, (although it certainly is nice if the club or teacher provide it) but most of us who are certified instructors know that every child learns uniquely, and independently so most times segregated classes are not necessary. I personally worked with each child individually when they required it. I also wanted children to learn by helping each other, and the principles of being in large group settings for martial arts are structured so that the novice learner, no matter what their skill level, are placed strategically so that they can see higher levels and that those higher levels assist when necessary. It is part of the martial art philosophy to help one another learn, and that is only a small part of earning a new belt (advancement).
As I said, my only source of proof is that I have taught children with Down syndrome, Autism and ADHD, and there were wonderful results. Not only did the children all learn new skills, better behaviours, increased self esteem and ultimately self defence, they made friends and were getting exercise. It taught the other students awareness as well. Since one of our top focuses are discipline, misbehaviours were not tolerated and were dealt with using exercise and common sense. Aggression specifically is not tolerated because it can be dangerous, so we aim to educate why this is so important to each and every student. This is why it was so successful in curbing aggressive behaviours in the children we taught, no matter who they were.
Now, not all Tae-Kwon Do centres have the type of philosophy that my Master instructors had taught me, and I have passed on. Some are strictly all about the money, so if you do decide to research any of the martial arts further, I suggest you make sure you speak directly to the club owners or head instructors, ask questions and ask to watch or participate in a class for free. Many of the clubs allow a free or trial class so that you and your child can see if it is something you like. If they don't offer such a thing, be very careful. Some clubs are expensive, and some are extremely cheap. This too should be a warning to you. Overly expensive ones are just looking to make/take your money, and may not have your child's best interests in mind. Recreational programs while usually really affordable may not have the same goals in mind that I spoke of. It can be tough. When I started out wanting to learn I was around 16 years old. I must have gone to about 20 different locations just to see what they could tell me. If they were willing to explain everything to me, I gave them my attention. School run programs are a starting ground - as when I was around 8 years old, my mother enrolled me in an after-school Judo class, run by the school. (I don't think those types of programs are flourishing these days though, with low funding.) I did eventually pick one Martial Arts (Tae-kwon Do) school and it was around $900.00 for a lifetime membership. I was able to achieve my black belt by the time I was 22 years old, and was actually Olympic bound. Unfortunately injuries prevented that, I am sorry to say.
I gave back to the community by volunteering and teaching for the same club, 6 days a week.
I know this post is now extremely lengthy, but I don't like to leave anything out. It does work when aggression and behaviour issues exist. I know I have saved a few boys from ending up in Juvenile Detention and subsequently jail. More importantly, I have helped to shape minds and bodies with healthy activity and I suggest anyone learn a martial art - any age. While my youngest student was only 3 years old, my oldest was 68 (in classes). I hope that you will consider it. If you have any questions about the Tae-Kwon Do or about this post, please feel free to PM me. I have lots of answers that you may have specific questions to.
If nothing else, perhaps this post gave you an alternative thought to your query, other than trying to get a school to change or letting it make you and your child crazy trying to sort it all out.
Down syndrome Group Forum Founder/Moderator
I noticed that my sons attitude really improves when people acknowledge he is in the room when he is not having a behavior. Reward good behavior with attention. My guy doesnt talk all that well and people seem not to take as much effort in communication with him. Talk to the person with down syndrome they need social interaction too.
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