The Riverside Youth Judo Club has had so much success with incorporating developmentally and physically disabled students into its classes that the club is hosting a sanctioned tournament just for those players on Feb. 21.
The club, for youths ages 5-17, has about 20 students with disabilities including autism, intellectual disability disorder, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, said Brian Money, the club’s program director and an instructor.
The tournament is free and is open to judo players who are members of U.S. Judo Association, U.S. Judo Association or USA Judo. Volunteers will work with the special-needs competitors to help them practice and improve their skills.
The tournament will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the club’s facility at 10530 Magnolia Ave., in the same center as the police station. The club is a program of the Police Activities League and the Riverside Police Foundation. Free hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, and beverages will be available.
“We’re going to go overboard to make it a nice day,” Money said.
Money said he didn’t imagine that the club would have so many special-needs members. Their success spread simply through word of mouth, he said.
As an example, people with autism don’t like to be touched, Money said, but judo helps his autistic students overcome that fear.
“You are touching, holding and grappling. Eventually the child starts feeling safe. They see the (other) kids won’t tease them or give them a hard time. They start feeling comfortable and suddenly they are doing things they didn’t do before.”
A student with cerebral palsy who had never run before is now running laps with the other students, Money said. The special-needs students see what the other students can do and try to model their actions, he said.
An intellectually disabled person has not had any violent incidents since he took up judo, Money said, as his parents use the classes as a reward for good behavior.
“The typical kids are benefiting from that too,” Money said. “They enjoy seeing the disabled kids’ accomplishments. … What a valuable lesson for the rest of us.”
Events like this truly demonstrates what makes Riverside such a unified city. We are a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.
For more information, contact Money at 951-353-7118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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