Baruch Student/Entrepreneur Adds a Little Kick to Autism Awareness

Graduate school is hard enough by itself let alone adding a full or part-time job into the equation. However, many of our classmates take on even bigger challenges. David Rosenberg is a current Baruch MBA student, a local entrepreneur, and an advocate for children with special needs. Together with his wife Stephanie, David opened a Karate school for children with special needs called Kicking the Spectrum™. This unique program is designed to allow children with a variety of developmental disorders come together and learn martial arts.

I recently had the chance to sit down with David to talk about his school and the resources he has found at Baruch to help him move his business forward.

What inspired you to start Kicking the Spectrum™?

The concept was formulated when I took a trip with my father to Ohio, for the Arnold Classic. This is a competition that is put on every year for many different disciplines, karate being one of them. Martial Arts is something my father and I did for many years. While at the Classic I watched children with special needs compete in this competition saw the look of pride on not only their faces but their parents as well. I came home and immediately told Stephanie what I saw and thought it would be amazing to start a program to teach martial arts to children with special needs in NYC, specifically children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Having grown up with ADD myself, I felt that martial arts really helped me feel empowered and helped him learn how to focus and stay disciplined. These skills carried over to the classroom and helped me become a better student as well. Many conversations later, we came up with a program that was unlike any other program currently available. We would co-teach the martial arts classes, utilizing both a modified martial arts curriculum and the techniques of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) that have been proven a very effective methodology in instructing children with developmental disabilities. This program would combine both of our passions and would potentially help many families with children on the spectrum

What are some of the benefits of Karate for children with special needs?

Martial arts offer the ability to train in strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, stamina, and reflexes. Once learned, the body does not forget. Martial arts create body awareness through practice, practice, and more practice. Through determination and dedication martial arts can teach a student to embrace the body they were born with and overcome any obstacle. By understanding that our bodies are complex organisms, we are all able to learn how to adapt when one area is disrupted. It was recommended to my parents after I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. By practicing martial arts I was able to learn how to focus not only in the dojo, but in school and at home as well. I gained an awareness of my own body, and the funny part was I didn’t become aware of my diagnosis until I was much older. Traditional karate schools believe that in order for students to succeed they must pass tests. Though we do have a belt ranking system, our emphasis is more on improving an overall sense of wellness in life. When our students learn martial arts techniques, their self-esteem and self-confidence improve greatly and they begin feel less vulnerable in a world that often does not understand their needs.

What are some of the challenges you face in your teaching?

Different kids have their own requirements and this sets a number of obstacles as an instructor. This is why you have ABA therapist in every class. With the help of an ABA therapist we are able to overcome some of the challenges that may be presented. We also limit our group classes to 4 children per class. The social aspect of group classes is particularly important. Some children find it difficult to integrate into certain social environments, but it you do it on a smaller scale the child can integrate a little bit easier.

Do you offer trial classes?

Yes. We utilize trial classes to help assess where a particular child can fit best. We want the child to feel comfortable in their group. The goal is not only for the students to benefit from the class, but from each other as well.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in opening your own business?

Building a business in NY you really want to get your name out and make sure that you are in the right location in the right magazines. Maneuvering yourself so you get your name recognized could be a harder task than if you were in a smaller/suburban environment.

How are you getting the word out?

We have done interviews such as this and taken ads out in magazines. We have also gone out to various businesses and given out brochures, and approached other businesses that have similar interests that are aligned in our end result.

How is it going to school and owning your own business?

Challenging. Finding a balance between school life, business life and personal life can often bring about challenges beyond itself into each individual’s own goals. You need to find ways to alleviate some of those stressors. One of the things I do is run. I am currently training for a half-marathon in May. I also have a good support system with my friends and family. Owning this business with my wife can be challenging, but it’s also very reassuring. I know my business partner will hold up her end of deal.

So you recently visited the Entrepreneurship office. Can you tell me what they offer?

They offer general guidance and provide expert management and technical assistance to start-up and existing businesses across the state

How helpful were they?

They were very helpful. I met with a woman who is also a professor at the school. We sat and spoke about my business and went through all the details and what my plan was. She then made recommendations on ways to improve my concept and my business. What she really wanted to know was what I was looking for. Since I was looking for growth that was what we focused. They do have people there that have specialties, so you can see people with different focuses. She also offered her help in the future should I need or want it.

Would you recommend them as a resource?

I would definitely recommend this resource. Not only is it a fantastic tool for people who are starting up a business but for those who just want an outsiders perspective without preconceived notions.

Are there any other resources at Baruch that you have found helpful?

Definitely utilize professors that have expertise in particular business areas such as HR or Marketing. Also, other students have proven to be helpful as well. I have referred to other students for advice or thoughts. I suggest going to any networking event you can, you never know who has expertise or connections that may be valuable to your business plan. Through other classmates we have been referred to community organizations that are looking to possibly integrate with us in the future.

If you were to offer a piece of advice to other Baruch students looking to open their own business, what would it be?

Make sure to take your time, do all your research, and don’t rush into it without looking at all of your options. Make sure you know exactly what you want which can be the easiest part, and make sure you know all the facts that go along with whatever the business is. Starting a business is one of the most rewarding and most challenging ventures I have ever done in my life and would do it all again, but definitely wouldn’t do certain things with my eyes a little more wide open.

On June 5th, 2011 I will be joining David, Stephanie, and thousands of other participants in Walk Now for Autism Speaks: NYC. This 5K walk/run is dedicated to accelerating the pace and progress of autism research. In honor of April as National Autism Awareness Month, Autism Speaks is asking everyone to light it up blue for autism. Starting April 1st prominent buildings throughout the world have lit it up blue. Autism Speaks is aiming to light the world blue throughout the entire month of April to raise support and awareness. If you would like to show your support and don’t know where to get started, you can click on the following links for more information:

One Response to “Baruch Student/Entrepreneur Adds a Little Kick to Autism Awareness”
  1. danseda says:

    This piece was both inspiring and informative. I’ve spent my life training as a performer, a dancer, and a yogi. I personally know the powers of the mind, body, spirit connection and love hearing about all the wonderful social businesses opportunities out there for like-minded entrepreneurs! Keep up the great work, Emily, and I hope to hear more from you very soon. Love and Light, Daniel Seda

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