As a teacher, It’s not unique to have a kid with a disability in your class. But sometimes it’s hard to know how to adjust your curriculum in order to provide the most fulfilling experience for those students.
Brendan Breen, a martial arts instructor in Canada found himself in that situation. He noticed over the years that among his students there were individuals with Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy. They were obviously enjoying the class as they kept coming back, but Breen believed he could provide them with an even better experience.
So, Breen created a nonprofit called Martial Arts Abilities Canada. He holds classes at a care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities using a system created by the Inclusive Karate Federation (IKF) in Belgium. His charity is the first of its kind in Canada and Breen is the first Canadian representative of IKF.
He runs the nonprofit alongside his wife at Deer Park Villas in Ituna. Everything they do is accomplished through donations.
The Ultimate Goal is Inclusion
While Breen’s students were “included” in his previous classes, they weren’t getting everything they could out of the class because it wasn’t developed around their needs.
His classes at Deer Park use color coding, placards to help students know which way to face, and movement mats to help with feet positions (just to name a few of the adaptations). The best part? Each class is adapted to the specific needs of the individuals taking the class that day. The only requirement for participation is that you’re at least seven years of age.
Another way Breen’s classes promote inclusion is by encouraging caregivers, family members, and medical professionals to join the students in the classes. This helps to normalize the experience, encourages participation, and strengthens bonds.
The Cost of Inclusion?
If Breen’s students are able to contribute to the nonprofit financially, they pay what they can to help support the sustainability of the organization. But if they cannot pay- everything is free. Breen doesn’t want cost to be a barrier. After all, you should never have to pay more for being uniquely yourself.
Too Often Disabilities Are Isolating
Even when there are ways for individuals with disabilities or rare conditions to participate in extracurricular activities, they’re often not easily accessible, they’re extremely expensive, or they are unintentionally isolating because adapted activities frequently limit patient’s interactions to people with similar life experiences. Martial Arts Abilities Canada does away with those barriers. By holding the class at the facility, they ensure access. By making it free, they encourage participation. By including other individuals in the class, they help promote a sense of normalcy and do away with feelings of isolation.
Looking to The Future
Breen’s excited about what he’s accomplished, but he’s not slowing down. He’s writing a letter to Prince Harry about including karate in the Invictus Games, and he would also love to partner with the Special Olympics in the future.
Check out the Breen’s fully story here and see some pictures of his students in action!