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ATA Leadership Martial Arts to Offer Class for Children with Autism

February 19, 2014 | Family Resource Navigator

ATA Leadership Martial Arts is offering a class for children with autism spectrum disorders, thanks to inspiration from a VIA family.

Check out the Newsplex story, featuring VIA mom Cherie Salerno!



How it all started…

Christopher Salerno, who is enrolled in VIA’s Outpatient Behavioral Services, loved his martial arts class at ATA and talked about it outside of class. But his mother Cherie began to notice that Christopher had trouble focusing in the group environment, and parents weren’t allowed on the mat.

“He wants to do things and he has a good time,” said Cherie, “but it’s hard to take him into an environment like that knowing that you’re bringing in a disruption.”

Cherie said the instructors at ATA were patient and flexible.

“The instructor was good at redirecting Christopher,” said Cherie, “but there’s no way he could have taught him and taught the rest of the class.”

Christopher Salerno

Christopher Salerno practices his martial arts.

That’s when Cherie met with VIA’s Family Resource Navigator Hilary Nagel and ATA’s Ryan Cirone to come up with a plan for kids like Christopher.

The solution?  A martial arts class specifically for children ages 3 and up with autism spectrum disorders. ATA will start offering the class in March.

Every child will have an aid on the mat to make sure every student is learning and enjoying the class.

“It will be a chance to do some physical work and be around other kids,” said Cherie, who is thrilled Christopher will still get the peer-to-peer interaction of a group class. “It’ll be great for his self-confidence.”

Cherie says the team at ATA is sending an important message to the community that these activities are possible for children with autism.

“It’s huge that an organization recognizes the needs and is prepared to work with these kids,” said Cherie.

Click here to learn more about the class, and contact ATA’s Ryan Cirone at 434-973-3000 to sign up!

Tags: ATA Leadership Martial Arts, Charlottesville, Community, Groups, Hilary Nagel, Outpatient Behavioral Services, Outreach, partnership, VIA Families, VIA On the Move

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