Parents turn to karate to help kids with autism

Karate to help learning disabilities

WOODBURY, Minn – George Zetterwall was the first born to Heidi Zetterwall and her husband 11 years ago.

"He was my little peanut," Heidi says. "I was so excited and sill am. I enjoy every moment with him."

But Heidi says when the diagnosis came that George had autism and an anxiety disorder, that moment was difficult.

"You go through a period of feeling, you know, just not sure what is going to happen next."

Heidi says growing up, it was difficult for George to be in group settings and hard for him to concentrate.

"We had tried basketball. We had tried baseball. It never really worked for George. We were looking for something that would be more his skill. Something he could succeed at without it being winning or losing."

A little more than a year ago George's family turned to karate after George told his mom he "wanted to do kung-Fu." Heidi came across JK Martial Arts, a group that specializes in teaching kids with learning disabilities such as autism, ADD and ADHD.

"He usually does what he wants to do," Heidi says, but George was following the sensei's every move, and doing the lesson.

Sensei Katherine Engstrom and her mother Joyce Berrke run the karate lessons.

"So many of the kids are like, I learned how to control my emotions. I learned that I was good at something," Engstrom says.

The classes are not something that works for every parent or child, however. Parents seek a wide variety of remedies to get their kids with learning disabilities to focus.

Heidi says the classes have given her and her husband peace of mind that things will be OK, and have helped George work through some of his struggles. It also helps them.

"It helps us see he can be in a group setting with the right steps," she said.

The classes are being taught through the Summer at Woodbury's Trinity Presbyterian Church and in St. Louis Park at Groves Academy. For more information, click here.


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