Karate, yoga offered for special needs kids

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's Caring for Kids program has year-round activities that help keep kids with physical disabilities active.

Karate and yoga both focus on building core strength, flexibility and balance.

"Yoga from a more calming, relaxation aspect and karate from a little more high energy intense aspect," said Janet Lutha, a recreation therapist and coordinator of Caring for Kids.

During the school year, they offer a number of different programs including yoga and karate for youth between the ages of 7 and 17.

Those programs are available on the weekends and during school holidays.

"Our programs are virtually free. We have a very nice relationship with a number of community partners that work very closely with our philanthropy department to make sure the cost isn't a barrier," said Lutha.

All the instructors have been trained to work with people with disabilities. For example, yoga is gentle, therapeutic and safe. It focuses on balances which will increase individual's strength and flexibility.

With karate, children learn about self-defense and peaceful conflict resolutions, while increasing their self-esteem and confidence.

"A lot of the kids in the program have cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, amputation limb deficiency - but all have a physical limitation," Lutha said.

Eleven-year-old Ryan Insley has cerebral palsy. When asked about yoga and karate he said, "'Yoga is very fun and it's basically a thing about, well, it's mainly about relaxation, it really is… Karate doesn't take up much energy, it's basically for self defense."

'This is a good program to be involved in. So they can learn to be a little more independent and learn what resources are out there that are available to them and let them know that their disability shouldn't define them and that there's alot more out there," Lutha said.

Caring for Kids serves the Chicago area. For more information call Ric Sports at 312/238-5010 or go to ricsports.org

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