Meet Caden

Like many six year olds, Caden is very interested in Ninjas! As Caden’s parents thought about different activities he might enjoy, they thought karate would be a great blend of physical activity and his love for ninjas. Caden’s mom called a few different dojos to see how they would feel about having a child with Down syndrome in one of their classes. After receiving a variety of responses, she was excited to receive the Delaware YMCA’s response that they’d be more than happy to have Caden join their class.

Caden has been practicing martial arts for just over a year at the YMCA. “The YMCA worked with us to develop a plan specifically to help Caden reach his goals,” explained his mom. While the YMCA’s plan is very individualized, Caden works on his goals by participating in classes with typically developing peers and is held to the same expectation as the other students.

We asked Caden’s mom what advice she would offer other parents and she said, “Don’t put limits on your kid and set high expectations.”

From breaking boards, to sparring with his older brother, to the “cool” outfits, Caden enjoys all of the elements associated with martial arts. While Caden has a lot of fun in his class, they also talk about very serious topics such as bullying and getting away from bad guys. “Caden doesn’t know stranger danger,” explained his teacher. “That’s a very real concern. We teach him how to get away from a bad guy.”

Caden loves to compete in martial arts competitions and has done quite well! “at the December tournament he earned a first place medal in board breaking, and a second place medal in self-defense against typical peers,” his mom proudly shared. We had the opportunity to observe Caden in action at one of his practices. At the end of the practice it was Caden’s turn to test for his next belt level and with no surprise, he earned it!

These classes cover more than just physical exercises. They learn about the origins of martial arts, responsibility, and respect. “Those behind us are learning from us.” This phrase is an important teaching point in the class. “Caden has made a lot of progress since starting martial arts,” shared his mom. “Outside of class he is more engaged and developed better listening skills.”

We celebrate the inclusive opportunity the Delaware YMCA has created for kids of all abilities to develop healthy skills. Congratulations to Caden on his latest martial arts achievements! Together we are #BetterTogether.