Drastic improvements in self-esteem, discipline, physical strength, stamina and concentration. Balancing on one foot, breaking a 1/4 inch board with his hand, a “side kick”, and a “round house kick.” Counting to 10 in English, Spanish, and Korean, using “yes sir” and “no sir” consistently, understanding body, eye, and mind focus, running sideways and backwards, performing push ups, jumping over another child (without landing on them), crab walking across a room, and remembering a 10 step sequence using both feet and hands… I could go on and on. These sound like wonderful accomplishments for any six-year-old to achieve within six months. However, for a child with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, it is even more special. Garrett, who turned six in March, began taking Tae Kwon Do last February. He could not do many of the things mentioned at the beginning of this article and can now perform them all.

Tae Kwon Do (pronounced tay-kwon-doe) is a martial art that was developed in Korea. This total art form encompasses the mind, body and spirit. Tae Kwon Do (TKD) not only helps one achieve flexibility, strength, endurance and balance, but provides a foundation for self-confidence, respect and discipline that carries over into school and home.

I could never have imagined that TKD would have as many benefits for Garrett as it has. It is so much more than I thought. The physical development and improved stamina is better than any kind of physical therapy. It is very physical, so it helps kids stay in shape while having fun! I worried about Garrett being able to speak the commands. When he started, he had to be prompted to say almost everything – now his “Yes Sirs” and “Kee-yahs” and counting are the loudest in the class. TKD meets so many of Garrett’s needs. Garrett loves structure, adult attention and pleasing adults. He gets all of this at TKD. Because of the improvements and his love for it – he now attends 3-4 days a week. He participates in a “Tiny Kicker” program for 4-6 year olds and periodically attends the 6-8 year olds class. He has earned his high white, yellow, orange and purple belts. Each belt test is a test in the philosophy of TKD, and the proper sequencing of steps and punches. Garrett is now working on his 20 step sequence. He is very much a visual learner, so seeing and then doing is how he is learning.

imgSuperkidGMUnlike other team sports, (falling asleep in the outfield, getting run over by the bigger more coordinated kids with the soccer ball) TKD is individual, but with the benefits of participating and following directions with others. They participate with others who are more advanced to give them something to strive for and those that are newer, allowing them to be the demonstrator. Everyone moves at their own pace and they learn to always do their best and more importantly to never quit. Many of the kids are intimidated at the thought of breaking a board with their hand or foot. However, the instructors are very encouraging and will not let the kids give up. The look of pride and excitement on their faces when they break the board is priceless. They learn that they can accomplish anything with hard work and perseverance. Tae Kwon Do allows individuals to set goals and to take responsibility for their own actions. It improves mental development and develops self-strength, self-knowledge, self-confidence, and self-control. Tae Kwon Do cultivates the positive aspects of an individual's personality: Respect, Courtesy, Goodness, Trustworthiness, Loyalty, Humility, Courage, Patience, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, an Indomitable Spirit and a sense of responsibility to help and respect all forms of life. More importantly, Tae Kwon Do strives for this unification of diversity whether through race, creed, nationality or individual ability. They are all one in the same. Tae Kwon Do reaches toward the total development of the individual.

I know this may feel like an advertisement for TKD, I just can not say enough good things about the comprehensive development and positive impact it has made for Garrett. I never would have imagined he would have accomplished all that he has in such a short time. Garrett did not walk until almost two. This just shows us that all of our kids have strengths and given the right support, they can be very successful. I hope this sends encouragement to new SMS parents.

Some of Garrett’s other hobbies include the Presidents. He knows them all and some “quirky” trivia about them. For instance, he thinks it is funny that John Quincy Adams named his son George Washington. He knows them by full name and then nick name –James Earl Carter AKA Jimmy Carter, William Jefferson Clinton AKA - Bill Clinton. On a recent visit to the NIH (understanding it was near DC) Garrett asked if we could meet George Washington, I told him he was president along time ago and that he had died. His response was “Oh- we missed him?” He then asked about Teddy “Bear” Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln and now knows which presidents are living. He knows every teacher at school (and they know him) and what bus every kid in his class rides (both morning and afternoon). He loves classical composers and can identify movements by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and others. We are now into knock-knock jokes. Every sentence is a knock-knock joke...

Here's one -
“Who’s there”
“Merry Who?”
“Merry Christmas!”
- or-
“Christmas Who?”
“Christmas Lights!”
- or -
“Banana Who?”
“Banana Split with cherries on top!”.

Garrett is our Superkid.

(excerpted from Spectrum, Vol 13, Issue 1, Winter 2009)