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How Martial Arts Transformed a Nonverbal Autistic Toddler into a Thriving 9-Year-Old Sensation

Kung Fu StudentWhen he was a happy but nonverbal toddler, our oldest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Doctors told us they had no idea if or when he’d become verbal or if he’d ever be social enough to have meaningful relationships. The outlook for his future was unknown and grim. Last year, at the age of 8, he performed a kung fu routine onstage in front of a crowd of 300 people, proving any obstacle can be overcome. This year, he will take the stage again Feb. 27 and dazzle the crowd with a martial arts routine consisting of fan-fighting and staff-fighting techniques with his Sifu (instructor), Robert Roy.

Video of 2014 Practice Session: http://youtu.be/XtnRPP66tVE

We had never thought about getting Steele involved in martial arts until Sam Hicks, the principal at Steele’s school, Lakeway Elementary, told us how much he’d seen other children in Steele’ situation thrive from martial arts. It sounded like a good idea to us, so we did our research and found Robert Roy. During Steele’s very first kung fu lesson, we knew we had found something special.

Kung Fu cropped“Martial arts helped Steele develop both sides of his brain because techniques require students to alternate between left brain and right brain skills, which many autistic children struggle with,” explains Sifu, a twice Hall of Fame inductee as kung fu master who trained in China at the Shaolin Temple. “I worked with Steele weekly and after only a few lessons, I saw dramatic improvements. His physical abilities were improving, his ability to focus was getting stronger and his level of confidence in himself was soaring.”

During the course of his kung fu lessons, we saw Steele transform into a focused, confident and skilled martial-arts student who specialized in staff fighting. In February 2013, he decided to share his martial arts achievements with his community by performing in the annual talent show at his school. The first step was making the audition. The staff at Lakeway Elementary School was extremely supportive and let Steele audition with Sifu. Four more weeks of practice flew by as the talent show quickly approached.

On Feb. 26, 2013, the Lakeway Elementary School gymnasium was packed with more than 300 parents, family members, teachers and friends, all eager for the talent show. I was a nervous wreck! He had never done anything like this in his life and we didn’t know how he’d react to such a huge crowd. When it was time for him to perform, he grabbed the microphone (which was unexpected and unscripted!!!) and asked the crowd, “Are you ready to see it?” The crowd clapped and cheered as Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” played and Steele and Sifu performed an exciting martial arts combat routine.

I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live. I cried from the moment he took the stage, because I was so overwhelmed with joy. Nobody in that crowd understood how every single thing he did was so magical. It was surreal. He didn’t get nervous, he spoke on a microphone from his heart in front of hundreds of people, and his routine was awesome. I still meet people who remember that routine vividly. It’s just amazing. (And they usually say, “Hey, aren’t you that mom who was crying at the talent show?” Yep, that’s me!)

Video of Performance Last Year: http://youtu.be/IIQGf29K5o4

kung fu 2013This year, he’ll be performing again with Sifu and he will be incorporating fan-fighting into the routine. We’re so very proud of him and can’t wait to see him do it again!

Meet Robert Roy (our Sifu!)
Robert Roy, who was trained in China at the Shaolin Temple, has been actively leading the martial arts community in Austin. As owner of Martial Arts Academy, he was active in Crime Stoppers programs, worked with the Austin Police Department’s SWAT Unit, the Department of Public Safety officers and the Parks and Recreation Department in Brazoria County. He is a two-time Hall of Fame inductee as kung fu Master and Living Legend of the Year. He has performed in countless shows and movies featuring martial arts.

He is currently working on a Bully Prevention Certification program designed to supplement anti-bullying campaigns nationwide. He and his wife are also developing an e-book video instructional series for parents and children called “ROOTAGE: Plant the Knowledge.” It will illustrate the hidden techniques and provide a clearer understanding of how ancient martial arts benefits child development.

(Sifu currently teaches throughout the state, but he holds private lessons at World of Tennis in Lakeway.)

Agony of Defeat in Sochi

Sochi Olympics Proving to be an Emotional Ride

I’ve been tuning in to watch the Olympics and wow, it’s been a crazy week of competition! A few days ago, on the 18th, I just tweeted “carnage” due to all of the crazy slides and spills during the debut of the first-ever parallel slalom race.

Today we see more bad news since a German Olympian failed his drug test. Grrr. Really? Come on. I can’t believe any athlete would even dream of doping during the Olympics?!? And the ice skating controversy chatter continues. (Of course it does.)

If you want to check out a pretty wild slide show of 38 photos that depict “The Agony of Defeat in Sochi,” hop on over to USA Today online. Amazing photos, but oh-so sad.

There’s still plenty of Olympic excitement left including cheering on Mikaela Shiffrin who is halfway to history as the youngest Olympic women’s slalom champion in history. She’s 18 and from Eagle-Vail, CO. You go girl!

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Iguana Grill

Lake Travis Lifestyle Post: 6 Best Patios in Lake Travis

Iguana_ Viewv2Warm weather is finally on the way and Lake Travis restaurants are gearing up for lazy spring afternoons outdoors where you can enjoy the beautiful Hill Country and perhaps sip a sweet margarita (or two!). One of the great things about living in the Lake Travis area is we have lots of beautiful sprawling spaces, so we also have lots of wonderful sprawling patios where you can experience the happiest of Happy Hours.

We’ve picked six of our favorite spots for patio Happy Hours and dining. They all have plenty of space, amazing views, tasty food and refreshing beverages. And they’re preparing for your business. Angel’s Ice House is currently repainting their fun red picnic tables and Iguana Grill has a sign posted that says they survived the winter, so bring on summer fun!

Check out the complete post on Lake Travis Lifestyle!

Martial Arts Combat Routine: Prepping for Talent Show (VIDEO)

staff fightingI would consider myself an athletic person. I played sports as a child and I’ve run marathons as an adult. But when I watch my nine-year-old son with his Sifu, practicing his Kung Fu techniques, I’m not sure I could do it. They move fast. None of it is fake. If my son doesn’t place his hands in the correct position, his fingers get hit with the staff. And this video isn’t even as fast as they can go. They can move much faster!

I’m so proud to share this video with everyone for many reasons. First of all, look at that technique and speed! Secondly, my son is autistic. When he was diagnosed almost six years ago, he had no core body strength and he was non-verbal. Look. At. Him. Now. Thirdly, they will perform this exciting Kung Fu combat routine in front of nearly 300 people at a local talent show next week. Fourth, my son doesn’t get nervous at all! In fact, he spontaneously grabbed the mic last year to get the crowd involved.

Hoping this video makes you smile and gives you the same sense of inspiration it gives me. (Thanks to our marvelous Sifu, Rob Roy!)

Steele LT Football players

Five Years Beyond Autism Diagnosis: High Hopes & Happiness

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged, thanks to a very intense full-time job. I love it, but it certainly takes up most of my time. Anyway, for those of you that have followed MommyQ, you know I have an autistic son. He was diagnosed at the age of three and now he’s eight years old! Wow! Over the last five years, I’ve talked to so many parents about autism. The one piece of advice I give over and over again is, “Take it one day at a time.”  There’s no need to worry needlessly into the future, because it does nothing for you. Make each day count and be thankful for every milestone. It may sound too simple, but when you’re trying to live in the moment, simple is good.

If you had asked me where my son would be now as far as school, sports, etc, my outlook was originally bleak. Not because I’m a pessimistic person, but because autism is such a mysterious reality. The good news is he’s doing great. (You can see his smiling face in the photo above – he’s in the light blue shirt, posing with our high school football team.) Thanks to a solid support system of friends, family and community, he is thriving.  He learns in a regular classroom with one-on-one help as needed. He reads, writes, does math and enjoys science. He’s faster on a computer or iPhone/iPad than I am. He can play tennis and soccer and swims like a fish. A few months ago, he started Kung Fu and today his skills are impressive, not to mention he uses a staff. It’s like having my own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle! He’s learning a routine for his school’s Talent Show, so I’m very excited for him.

I remember the days when he hardly spoke, couldn’t complete directions, didn’t take interest in the world around him and had minimal physical strength. He existed in his own world and we desperately fought to bring him out of it. Today, he’s a normal kid who loves chocolate cake, hates cauliflower, fights with his little brother and blushes when a female classmate gives him a hug. His perspective of the world will always be different, but different isn’t bad. I’ve learned that a big dose of hope brings happiness. Keep your chin up.

First Pair of Cowboy Boots: Yeehaw, Ariat

It’s rather shocking to think I’ve lived in Texas for over 12 years and I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots. I may be from Virginia, but I’m just not a cowgirl. I’d describe myself as more of a misguided East Coast, West End girl. (Thanks for the validation, Pet Shop Boys.)

What’s even more absurd is until last night, my boys didn’t own a real pair of cowboy boots either. Over the years they’ve had plenty of Western themed parties and events, but I’ve just never felt compelled to get the whole ensemble. Now at the ages of seven and four, they were more than ready to pick out a pair of cowboy kicks. We took them to Cavender’s and they had a blast choosing the most awesome pairs of Ariat boots. My young buckaroo went for the tan and purple (yes, real men wear purple boots), and my older son got the same style with red. The gal who helped us find the “perfect” boots was really sweet and helpful.

What’s funny about shopping for cowboy boots in Austin? Walking through the parking lot, I noticed a huge pickup truck with gun racks and rims parked next to a Prius. Lol. Austin – home of the eco-friendly cowboy.

Beyonce’s Baby Drama: Welcome to Crazyville, Blue Ivy

It seems Beyonce spared no expense when it came to her baby girl’s birth. Any why would she? She’s Beyonce. TMZ has released photos of her beautiful hospital suite which costs around $700-$800 per night. A tad expensive, yes, but that’s not an insane amount. Her posse used about four rooms during her stay – evidently her entourage travels with her for her birth – ew.  Why? In case she decides to record an album during delivery or needs a sequins bodysuit? Anyway, so four rooms would’ve run her about $3,200. Again, not a big deal when you’re sitting on kabillions of dollars. Click image below to see more of her hospital suite!

So why so much drama about Beyonce’s baby? It really didn’t cost a ton if the above info is correct. Wait, there’s more! On Wed. of this week the NY State Health Department got  “complaints from new parents who claim they were mistreated by the staff at Lenox Hill Hospital while Beyonce was giving birth in the VIP room.”  The parents who were having babies in the hospital while Bey & Z were there said, “they were neglected by staff and prevented from visiting their newborns … due to the drama surrounding the superstar.” Gee, ya think?

Let me tell you this, had I given birth at my hospital while a HUGE superstar like Beyonce was there, I would’ve delivered my baby myself with a bedpan and a sheet. I’m 1,000 times certain I  would’ve been totally ignored. They ignored me most of the time anyway! Talk about ruining a special moment for you and your family. Who cares about your normal, boring baby when BEYONCE and JAYZ are birthing royalty down the hall. Seriously? You know I’m right.

The baby rumors continue to swill about and who knows what’s actually true. All I know is that kid is gonna hear the most unbelievably cool nursery rhymes ever.