WALDWICK, N.J. — Sensory Taekwon-Do, which has locations in Bergenfield and Waldwick, modifies the Korean martial art to help people with special needs.
Chiropractor Kerry Escamilla, who has adult ADHD, is the director of both schools and innovator of the whole brain/whole body approach. He holds a second-degree black belt in Taekwon-Do and has advanced training in neurology.
“With regular Taekwon-Do, you learn a large group of skills including self-defense and self-control,” said Jonathan Kilburn, director of the Waldwick dojo. “It differs from other martial arts because it tends to include a mix of kicks and punches.”
At first, all children are encouraged to take private lessons so their needs can be assessed, according to Kilburn, who holds a first-degree black belt in Taekwon-Do.
“I may have a child who is 12 and has issues with aggression and low self-control,” he explained. “I can’t put that child into a group class because he may try to take out that aggression on other students.”
But he can teach a class of three 8-year-olds, all at roughly the same skill level. In a class, Kilborn focuses on the issues that those students face, whether they be developing social skills, thinking before acting, or increasing or decreasing emotional response, among others.
“If we have children who sit behind an iPad all day and work on a one-on-one basis with a teacher at school,” he said, “we give them interaction together so they can learn to think critically, outside of themselves.”
Sensory Taekwon-Do opened in Bergenfield on South Washington Avenue four years ago. To meet an increased demand, the Waldwick location at the Superdome opened last fall.
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the rate of children with an autism spectrum disorder remained at 1 in 68 nationally. New Jersey had the highest rate: 1 in 41 children, up from 1 in 45 two years ago.