Kids & Family

Her Passion For Boxing Helps Kids With Autism Learn Self-Control And Self-Respect

Prepare to be surprised! See how she uses what many consider to be a violent sport to help her students keep calm -- and get coordinated.

Jessica Margulies is passionate about teaching kids with special needs. And she's passionate about boxing. So probably only she could come up with the idea to connect these two passions, and teach boxing to young people with autism.

Jessica realizes that the concept is counterintuitive to most people. "Boxing has a negative connotation, typically we think violence and we think fighting and we think anger, but actually it's the opposite," she told Today. "It teaches you control and release."

Jessica says boxing teaches control and coordination.Bout Fitness/Instagram

Margulies feels that the structure of boxing (think: cross-hook-cross) and the rhythm of the "one-two-three" sequences she uses is easy for her students to grasp and follow. You can see what she means in this video from a workout in her class at Title Boxing Club in Queens, NY:

Jessica's autism class is called The Spectrum Bout. It's designed for people on the spectrum between the ages of 7 to 22. "They work on their coordination, learn about discipline, and are taught to hit only when the gloves are on," said Margulies, who says parents tell her their children had never been coordinated at anything until boxing. She says boxing also teaches her students focus, organizational skills, and provides them socialization.

"It's a place where they feel accepted, and have their voices heard."

One of the young men in that video, Joshua, is one of Jessica's star pupils. His brother Jamari is autistic and also boxes. "Boxing is the sport of combat and me and my brother are interested in it," Joshua told Today. "You'll stay fit strong and brave."

Joshua, Jessica and Jamari.Bout Fitness/Instagram

Joshua's mother Michele Roett-Maynard says her son really enjoys sparring with his fellow boxers. "I think it gives him a sense of confidence because he's a lot calmer than what he used to be,"

Joshua demonstrates his moves.Bout Fitness/Instagram

Joshua's caregiver Andre Bailey agrees. "I've seen many changes in him since he started boxing. He's developed discipline," he said, acknowledging that some people with autism can be prone to outbursts. "Since [Joshua's] been doing boxing he takes time to analyze the situation first and then express himself rather than just being upset about it."

Bout Fitness/Instagram

For Jessica, who's been boxing for 5 years and teaching special needs children for eleven, these special boxing classes are a calling. "What I'm most proud of is giving these kids a voice, an outlet a place to release, a place to feel accepted and know that they have every right and opportunity that you and I have. They need to know that it's OK to be frustrated, it's OK to not know the answer, it's OK to be scared. I think I've given them a place to learn all of that."

How can you start something good?

What a great message, and a great opportunity to turn your passion into something that can make a difference for someone else.

While Jessica does charge a fee for her classes, she also takes donations to help make the classes available for families that can't afford to pay. Click here to find out how to sign up (after shelter-at-home is over) if you're in the Queens area.

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