martial arts for kids in San Diego
December 14, 2007 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I've got a friend with an adopted son. The kid has some adjustment problems from his early treatment and adjustment here. She's looking at using meds to change his behavior. I think that's not a great idea and she should look to enrolling him in martial arts classes. They are in San Diego. Can anyone recommend a program in that area?

My friend is a single mother. With single-track determination, she adopted a child from Russia a few years ago. He's eight now. This kid is headstrong, willful, perhaps has a wild mathematics talent, and also has problems being moody and depressive. He also likes to challenge adults around him physically at times (aka being rowdy and physical). He's also a great kid too.

The mother is coping with this but the mix is not quite right. They get into tussles and the kid is challenging to handle. She's been looking for psych help, and of course they pull out the pharmacopia and their book of terminology which will end up with the kid on Ritalin and other mood changers. I think he needs some good discipline, focus, and self-esteem building which succeeding at a martial arts can provide. Maybe he needs both. But I would try the arts before the drugs IMHO. In any event, a program that has a strong spiritual component where the sensei are teaching people to be strong beings as well as fighters is called for I think.
Any programs you know of that you like?

There's also a factor of adult-child power struggles. Perhaps a primer in how to be the top dog with children would also be a good thing to have.
Thanks in advance.
posted by diode to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Attachment Disorder. Therapies that address this.

Martial Arts is a great idea, but kids with AD sometimes have big problems with empathy, and teaching these kids how to fight can be exactly the opposite thing from what they need: to learn to be held. No telling which variety of AD he has (avoidant, disorganized), but he very likely does have it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2007

I'd be more inclined to suggest they find a rock climbing gym they can visit together.
posted by padraigin at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2007

Seconding AV. He should be checked out, because if he does have attachment issues (and that is not uncommon at all with children coming from Eastern Europe and the conditions there) the last thing he needs is to be taught a deadly art. Yes, kids learn discipline and zen and yada yada yada, but that comes with time, and in the meantime he's learning how to be violent more effectively.
posted by Anonymous at 11:40 AM on December 14, 2007

One way to start might be for the mother to find a therapist who is expert in working with adoptees who can coach her on the best way to parent a child with these issues. With a better understanding of the her son and some changes in how she responds to his behavior, they might see some real improvement. Medication can help with some of symptoms but not the underlying problem - that requires therapy. If the symptoms are not too bad, then focusing on the real issues (both now and left over from the past) will do more good in the long run.
posted by metahawk at 11:49 AM on December 14, 2007

If the kid needs Ritalin it would be foolish to deny it to him. It is a wonderful drug for some kids and there are few side effect issues, especially if you used a delayed release form like Concerta. SSRIs etc. may be another story.
posted by caddis at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2007

Did she ask for your help? If she didn't, please just support her in any way you can and keep your opinion of medication out of it. After attending most of kindergarten and first grade with my son, and trying every single treatment out there from martial arts to crawl therapy, eventually we just needed to try ADHD medication.

And guess what? Properly diagnosed, and properly dosed (it's not just Ritalin anymore, my friend,) my son was *exactly* himself, except he could actually concentrate. And it would have been nice if all the people who thought they knew better than I did, and reacted violently to the very idea of medication had been the ones attending school with him and making those hard decisions.

For somebody who went to all the trouble to adopt alone, can't you give her credit for having already gone through other options first before getting to drugs?
posted by headspace at 12:06 PM on December 14, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for that post headspace. Sounds like you're reacting more to what people have said to you than what I posted. I give the mother lots of credit. Everyone needs all the options they can muster plus the information to back them up. That's why I posted here, to get some different opinions.
Sorry you were given such a hard time by people but that has no relationship to my friend or her decisions. I've done nothing to influence her, just made a suggestion and will follow up with what people have posted here.
Sounds like you also tried many different avenues including martial arts as well you should have done. Give me some credit for not hassling my friend about her choices and simply trying to give her a few other options. Perhaps it seems like I'm leaning on her to choose martial arts against a drug regimen but such is not the case.
After all, this is not my child and if I were in her shoes, I might well choose the same course of action, ie to use drugs if that seems necessary.
Thanks for the posts so far. The tests on the kid aren't finished so I don't know what the results will be regarding the type of AD or the prescribed course of action. I agree it's a concern that a kid with lack of focus or lack of control may not be a suitable candidate for martial arts. There is no one easy answer to these types of problems.
There are entirely defensive schools, like aikido or judo. It would be nice to have the name of at least one program I could recommend, so the question still remains, what school would someone recommend for kids in San Diego.
posted by diode at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2007

So he has seen a psychologist or psychiatrist regarding Attachment Disorder, or Reactive Attachment Disorder? I just realized that AD and ADD are only one letter apart, but the treatments are very, very different. My little sis is an adopted kid with AD, so this is a pretty close to my heart. The sooner his parents learn about his needs with regard to this disorder, the better, exponentially so.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2007

I will answer the question, and the question under the question.

San Diego's a big place, and location is probably pretty important. There are a *lot* of martial arts places around that teach kids. Aikido is traditionally thought of as a "less confrontational" or defensive art; Jiai Aikido teaches kids (you didn't say how old the kid was, either). I have attended a class there and found the instructors and the facility to be excellent.

Now, for the other. Our oldest child has ADHD. You describe him well:
...headstrong, willful, perhaps has a wild mathematics talent, and also has problems being moody and depressive. He also likes to challenge adults around him physically at times (aka being rowdy and physical). He's also a great kid too.
We have read more books on ADHD, "spirited" children, "difficult" children, than I am betting you ever will. We have tried many, many different things (giving each time to work, of course). He is five, yet we have capitulated and are currently medicating it helps, some--but it could be better. We are also in counseling as well.

I'm sorry if I sound angry to you, but I'm actually just frustrated with both (A) his behavior, and (B) the perception of many people like yourself that "maybe you're not trying the right things..." It is incredibly annoying and demeaning to hear that you're not parenting the right way, and coming from a non-parent or a parent of "normal" children, it is especially so.

We ourselves are considering martial arts for our son, but the first time we tried it he was essentially uncontrollable unless physically held, and the instructor couldn't effectively teach the class while he was there. It is very difficult to bring a child like this places while knowing that he will at best make everyone miserable and at worst start hitting people just to get a response [while giggling uncontrollably, mind you].

Apologies if I've overreacted. In closing: martial arts can help, but don't be too judgemental. Team sports are generally not going to help. Rigorously structure to days/activities helps a lot; any surprises end up causing big problems. If you aren't already, offer to watch the child for her, frequently.

Parents with kids like this have a huge, huge problem getting people to watch the kids for some "down time", as most babysitters, etc. just can't cope with this sort of behavior, and most parents won't offer to trade sitting with you 'cause they know your kid. When you do watch this boy, take it easy on the "exciting" play, because it's hard for them to calm down. Most kids, you do something funny, or tella joke, and they laugh for a bit. My son, for example, will start giggling uncontrollably, start yelling nonsense barely related to the joke, and start "losing control" (flailing arms about, running around, etc.).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:17 PM on December 14, 2007

Rereading, again--apologies for both my tone and for the assumption of ADHD (which apparently isn't necessarily the case). Best wishes, and good luck. I fully expect to be posting about my own son's problems here sometime, and probably should have already.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:19 PM on December 14, 2007

Best answer: San Diego Aikikai is very reputable. The aikido school I attend in Illinois is affiliated with this school and several of our members have studied at the San Diego school. I help instruct kids and always appreciate knowing a child's background and any potential problems. We don't prejudge kids, whether it's ADD or physical problems, but knowing as much as possible helps us give each child the instruction they need. Look for a kids' class that has enough adult instructors to make sure each child gets some individual attention, or that the class can be divided into small groups by ability level. Some schools allow parents to watch class and other schools do not. Your friend should stay on the premises to help control her son if his behavior becomes disruptive.
posted by Joleta at 1:33 PM on December 14, 2007

Has she asked you for advice? I get suggestions like yours... oh... pretty much every day for my kid, and I suspect your friend does, too. I know you mean well, but it gets real old real fast to have people constantly telling me about this that or the other great program they heard about.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:24 PM on December 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

Something else to consider, maybe as more of a compromise, might be yoga or tai chi for kids -- same idea of mental/physical control and self-awareness, less opportunity to get violent or (inadvertently) encourage aggressive behavior. Plus, there'd likely be a specific explicit focus on learning relaxation techniques. This program seems to have yoga specifically designed for kids with ADHD and other special needs.
posted by occhiblu at 3:28 PM on December 14, 2007

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