Lisa Chin has sectioned off part of her Brooklyn apartment to make room for a small classroom/dojo. Chin, who has a black belt in Taekwondo, is an applied behavior analyst and former special education teacher, is also the executive director of FirefliesNY, a three-year-old organization that uses physicality and martial arts to help those with autism and Asperger Syndrome. The name “Fireflies” comes from Chin’s belief that special needs children can truly light up a room.
Chin’s idea to use martial arts with autistic children and those with Asperger’s began when she was teaching special education. “We started doing boot camp breaks between periods, the resulting academic progress and focus was phenomenal,” says Chin. She expanded on this idea and started FirefliesNY, which uses Taekwondo, music with movement, balance, stretching and breathing exercises to help children build strong bridges between their mind and body, their inside self and the outside world.
FirefliesNY currently works with 25 children and has an equal number of volunteers to ensure that each child gets the attention they need. A 10-week package, consisting of one lesson a week, runs $695, but many parents feel this is a small price to pay for their child’s improved focus, patience and attitude. Currently, Chin is preparing to expand Fireflies and hopes to see this model showing up in cities across the country.
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