ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s a Saturday afternoon as Brian Burns and his dad get ready for Judo class, but it’s not just any Judo class.
“We developed a judo program for children with autism spectrum disorder. This particular program is actually working with the family, so the families actually do judo together,” said Jeanette Garcia, an associate professor in health sciences at UCF.
It'a program created by researchers at UCF’s College of Health Professions and Sciences abd it's all geared towards helping children who have autism become more active.
“We’ve seen that they are laughing more, they are more outgoing, they are more social, they are more talkative, they are more confident. We are seeing it just as they walk in that there is more self-confidence. They just seem happier,” said Garcia.
That is evident as Brian walks in the door, takes his shoes off and starts to stretch. You quickly see how much he enjoys this weekly class when he starts singing. You can tell he is gaining confidence with every step.
His mom, Debora Burns, watches the class live on a web stream just a few rooms down, so she doesn’t distract him from the lesson.
“He counts the days to be here. It’s the highlight of his week,” said Debora.
They are only halfway through the 16-week program and she can already see a positive impact on her 12-year-old son.
“He’s improving in school work, ability to move, more active at home, so these eight weeks have been priceless,” said Debora.
More importantly, Brian is smashing the barriers, all while taking down the bad people.
“My son now feels like he belongs to something to very big and that he belongs somewhere and he is proud of himself and he feels very good about himself. I think this breaks the barrier of limit. It is unlimited what they can do. Even though he is not quite where he wants to be at but I think it opens the door to get there,” said Debora.