(WSVN) - Children with special needs are flourishing in a martial arts class designed just for them. And they’re learning how to achieve success both on and off the mat.

7’s Karen Hensel has today’s 7 Spotlight.

These mats were made to foster fierce martial artists. But more than that, they’re fostering hope.

Michael Fernandez/owner of First Order of Jiu-Jitsu: “The reason we opened up is to be different, and for a group that society doesn’t really touch much on. We have the Just Us Two program, a program that’s designed for kids on the spectrum.”

Friday nights at First Order of Jiu-Jitsu in Miami are filled with hands-on training specifically for children and teens with special needs.

Michael Fernandez: “So some of them don’t have motor skills, fine motor skills, and just holding a gi, holding somebody, holding somebody down, carrying somebody, it’s working the total body.”

But parents aren’t allowed to just drop-off and go. They’re required to hit the mat with their children.

Michael Fernandez: “This gives the parents one hour to really work with their child, get to know their child from all angles. It’s an hour for you and your child with no interruptions.”

Michael and his wife Christine opened First Order of Jiu-Jitsu in 2016. Together, they have years of experience in martial arts and working with special needs children.

Michael Fernandez: “It’s not just me that runs this. My wife helps, all the parents help. We integrate ourselves with all the students and that is what makes this place. I’m just one person.”

Between hours of school and therapy, parents say that one class with their children is priceless and they’ve found a family like no other.

Angely Angel: “We’re constantly looking at our kids behind a screen on an iPad, but we’re not engaging with our kids. And a lot of the time we feel like we’re losing time with our children because we want them to have these therapies.”

Through the program, parents have seen their children open up in ways they never imagined possible.

Charlie Weiss: “I’ve seen his confidence, I mean, skyrocket. He’s now involved in whitewater rafting, soccer, swimming, he does it all. And I really do attribute this program for giving him the confidence to do those type of things.”

For these families, it’s more than a dojo.

Angely Angel: “He’s given us a place for us to be able to have a home, and so, it’s been spectacular.”

This is a community where children can build confidence, strength and bright future.

Karen Hensel, 7News.

If you know of a person, place or group that you think we should highlight, email us at 7spotlight@wsvn.com.

More Information:
First Order of Jiu-Jitsu

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