How Martial Arts Helped My Son With ASD

By Coach Bekah Bell

Growing up as a coach’s daughter, I played numerous sports most of my life and gained many friendships through the different teams I was a part of along the way. When I became a parent I couldn’t wait to put my son in organized sports so that he could have the same opportunity to experience social bonding with his peers as I did, but this proved to be a near-impossible task due to his Autism Spectrum Disorder.

We tried everything from baseball to basketball to swimming, but after several failed attempts I resigned myself to believe that Adam may never be able to adapt and handle team sports, and if he did he would, at best, be a benchwarmer; that was until I walked through the doors at Straight Blast Gym.

I had only been a member for a few weeks when the owner, Kisa Davison, approached me. At first, I thought she was going to talk to me about Adam walking by the yoga studio windows and disrupting the class, and I was preparing to give my standard apology speech (as I often had to do after public outbursts).

Instead, she walked up to me and asked me how I liked my jiu jitsu classes. A few minutes into chatting the conversation turned to Adam, and to my amazement not only was she knowledgeable about children on the autism spectrum, but she came up with a strategy to get Adam into jiu jitsu classes.

And so the plan was hatched and every other day Adam and I would ride our bikes around the block to the gym, every time waving at the yoga class, walking through the front doors, taking our shoes off, putting our shoes in a cubby, then putting our shoes back on and riding home.


With each passing month, the coaches and staff would slowly work themselves into the daily routine, stopping to say “Hi” to Adam and play along when Adam asked the same question every time, “Do you like my helmet? It’s a mohawk”.

We did this every other day for a year, a whole year. Adam didn’t do a single class. In fact, he wasn’t even signed up, but everyone at the gym invested time in Adam and went out of their way to be a part of his world instead of the other way around.

By the time Adam attended his first class he already had established year-long friendships with the coaches, and I watched my little boy waltz through his first class with ease. All the usual triggers didn’t faze him.

That was two years ago and today, as I sit writing this in the lobby of Straight Blast Gym, my son is playing games with his usual friends and greeting staff as they walk by.

I cannot explain how grateful I am for this gym and their community. These are the gifts from being part of a tribe. Not only did they play an essential role in Adams therapy, but they also were the cornerstone in creating a family and home where my son can excel and thrive being his unique and beautiful little self.

Have a special needs little one in your life that you think would benefit from our Growing Gorillas Kids Program? Contact SBG today and make an appointment with one of our coaches. Together you can create a plan that works for your kiddo. We believe that stepping into their world (not the other way around) is the best way to help guide them in becoming the most functional and best version of themselves.

Kalispell: (406) 752-7244
Whitefish: (406) 862-7244
Bigfork: (406) 420-2888
Missoula: (406) 721-7244