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Parents of children who learn differently may wonder what options exist for their children to participate in team sports or other athletic activities. Children on the autism spectrum, especially, may not thrive in the typical team sports setting because of obstacles they face communicating with others, namely their peers. Yet, Robert Fox has been able to see many such children experience success through his Tae Kwon Do classes at Lupo Tae Kwon Do at United Sports Training Center (USTC) in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Fox, who didn’t begin practicing Tae Kwon Do himself until he was in his thirties, says that his school teaches five tenets, with self-control being one of the most important.  Photo: www.unitedsportstkd.net

“So much of what we do is designed to improve that for kids who struggle there,” says Fox.  “In the end, our goal is to help parents to help their kids to become a better version of themselves.”

Fox goes on to add that the benefits of Tae Kwon Do, or really any martial arts program, are far reaching. Fox’s program at USTC provides conditioning for students, giving them many opportunities to further their goals by advancing onto new belts. Fox also adds that this process  is a means for any child, not just those with learning differences, to build confidence, form friendships and increase self-control.

As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, Fox says he understands wholeheartedly the pain that such children and their parents face upon realizing they have trouble with team sports. A large number of Fox’s students have individualized education programs (IEPs) for issues ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and auditory processing disorders to vestibular and balance issues.

“It can be heartbreaking, but in martial arts, a child is able to build his or her confidence no matter where they begin. It is a journey of personal growth,” he says.

Fox shares the story of one such student’s improvement, who started classes at Lupo TKD when he was just four-years-old. The child initially needed private lessons because of his inability to handle the extra sensory stimulation a group setting provides.

“For the past year, he has been taking group classes…he has become a role model for the other kids.”

Lupo TKD at United Sports opened in February of 2011. Fox says that black belts from the school are recognized in more than 200 countries worldwide, an important point because many martial arts schools offer certificates that are only recognized by their local schools or smaller networks.  

The program has more than 100 students, with about 10 percent being on the autism spectrum. Fox also runs a second location at Montgomery County Sports Performance Center in Harleysville. The Little Tigers class is for children ages 4 through 6, and another program is designed for children ages 7 through 11.

Lupo TKD also hosts a “family class,” what Fox considers the school’s best feature.

“This is where parents and kids of all ages can enjoy class together for a shared family experience,” he adds.  

USTC, located at 1426 Marshallton-Thorndale Road in Downingtown, holds an outdoor movie night the last Friday of every month in the summer.  Lupo TKD will be there from 6:30 to 8 p.m., doing demonstrations and handing out coupons for free classes.  For more information, contact Robert Fox at robert.fox@lupotkd.com or via the Web at Unitedsportstkd.netd.net.

According to Autism Speaks—an autism advocacy organization in the United States which sponsors autism research—autism affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. The organization also states that autism prevalence figures are growing, and there is no medical detection or cure for autism.


Julia Sherwin is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives in Chester County. She is a former college journalism instructor who enjoys running, biking, swimming, traveling and cooking.

Email her at jsherwin73@gmail.com  and followe her on Twitter @JuliaSherwinPoPYou can also follow her other parenting articles at juliasherwin.wordpress.com.

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Photo: www.unitedsportstkd.net