Sierra Aikido  

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Special Needs Program

Sierra Aikido adapts training to each student and strives to include all children and teens for whom Aikido would be healthful and enjoyable. We offer private and small group classes specifically for special needs kids, and also enable supported training in mainstream classes whenever possible.

Because the art of Aikido addresses multiple aspects of the self, it can be of great benefit to children and teens with Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, ADD and other developmental challenges, as well as to those with physical disabilities. Aikido training not only builds gross motor skills, but also supports intellectual, social and emotional growth.

Close collaboration with parents focuses each student's learning objectives and integrates the training with his or her other activities and studies. If parents are employing specialized education, therapy or other interventions, Sierra Aikido training can extend and remain consistent with that effort.

Benefits of Aikido

Aikido is a non-combative, non-competitive martial art, so Sierra students can study at their own pace and in their own best learning mode. Because Aikido partners always take turns throwing and falling, the training is a practical, physical expression of positive social give-and-take. The structured group training etiquette is also fertile ground for practicing self-regulation and focus.

The dynamic movement of Aikido is enjoyable, well-rounded exercise that supports emotional, as well as physical wellness. Lively training reduces stress, and the empowerment of learning something new and complex at one's own pace boosts self-confidence. Physical training objectives typically include motor-planning and coordination, strength and stamina, balance, body awareness and alignment, placement of the body in space, awareness, and sensory processing and integration.

Previously inactive children and teens often find they enjoy Aikido training. We've seen over the years that Aikido appeals especially to children and teens not previously motivated by competitive or individual sports. Aikido is particularly well-suited to girls because it relies on balance, coordination and agility, rather than upper-body strength.

Aikido clearly teaches basic, transferrable physical skills for kids to enjoy sports, dance and other martial arts. In addition, parents are encouraged to help us relate the student's Aikido training directly to academics, fine arts, and language and communication skill building.

Class Structure and Teaching Approach

Sierra combines private, weekly one-on-one training sessions with guided participation in a mainstream class as the child or teen is ready. The private sessions are built on a close collaboration with the parent. Together we evaluate the student's needs and best learning modes. Learning objectives are then molded to fit each student, at his or her own level of development. Sierra takes a long-term view of all our students' training. Special needs students can continue the private sessions in parallel with the mainstream classes for as long as the sessions are beneficial. Similarly, special needs kids can do ongoing training in small group classes for as long as they wish, with our without participation in our public classes.

For kids with neurological challenges, the essential first step in the private sessions is for the instructor to build a trusting, personal connection with the student. With younger children, some basic elements of "floortime" play (Greenspan and Wieder) help forge that relationship. At the same time, we link and extend the floortime play to Aikido basics. Especially important are activities that build reciprocal play and communication. Partnering with parents, exercises to build focus, self-regulation and social skills can be made consistent with the same efforts at home and at school.

To engage all our special needs kids fully and internalize their Aikido movements, we incorporate guided Aikido-related play and basic yoga with traditional Aikido training. Along with structured activities, we regularly include free play. We consider play a child's important work, essential to all aspects of growth and development.

Whenever possible, we harness the magnetic attraction drawing younger kids to older ones to copy and learn from them. It can be very motivating to include a peer, older child or teen in the private sessions. The peer can act as a trusted training partner, help the instructor model and adapt movements, and show our Aikido training structure. The peer or older child can be a sibling, a classmate, a friend of the family or, as they are available, volunteers from our Sierra Aikido kids classes. The pairing of special needs kids with peer partners is highly rewarding for both.! The peer teacher also has the fun of learning about Aikido, if he or she is not already an experienced Sierra member.

The peer mentor and the parent can accompany the special needs student onto the mat during the mainstream clases, as needed, as guides and personal coaches. In the private sessions, week by week, we prepare the student for the class activities to come. Learning the skills, verbal instructions and training format and behavior ahead of time reduces anxiety and ensures higher success in the class. In fact, all Sierra kids and adults have more experienced peers training with them one-on-one. It is also typical for newer, less experienced Sierra students to have a sheltered area of the mat where they can train comfortably at their own pace.

Homeschool Class Location

Private sessions, small group and mainstream classes are held at our Sierra South location at 2134 Old Middlefield Way, Suite A, Mountain View, CA 94043

Tuition Fee Structure

We encourage families to form small- to moderate-sized private classes and share the cost of membership. The annual tuition covers:

    One private class hour per week and, if desired,
  • Participation in any of Sierra's public classes appropriate for the student's age group.

Number of Students Tuition Payment / Month
1$300
2$400 (shared cost)
3 to 5$500 (shared cost)
6 or more$100 per student

Tuition can sometimes be adjusted to fit the needs of a particular group.

Learning Objectives

Overall curriculum and teaching approach is customized for each special needs child or teen. As a starting point, however, these are links to the the general learning objectives by age group for all Sierra Aikido children and teens. Our holistic approach integrates physical, social, emotional and cognitive learning experiences for each student, according to his or her age group and stage of development:

Children and Teens - 2nd to 12th Grade

Kindergarten - 3rd Grade

More Information

Please feel free to Contact Sierra Aikido or email your questions and discuss your interests and specific needs for your children or teens.

Visitors are always welcome to observe any of our regularly scheduled classes and talk with us about our programs. New students routinely try a single training session, at no charge, to assess their interest in joining us. We are also more than willing to meet with new parents for an extended conversation outside of the class schedule.

Please visit Sierra Aikido's home page, which links to more information about our teaching approach for each age group, a schedule of our public classes, information for newcomers, a list of our other private class offerings, and our community outreach mission. Sierra Aikido is a 501(c)3 Public Benefit Corporation.


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