Objective To confirm the efficacy of Karate, a complex psychomotor activity that enhances executive function, social reading, and attentional skills, in the treatment of externalizing conditions of childhood. Externalizing conditions of childhood include a variety of clinical situations ranging from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to conduct disorder. Externalizing behaviours are also seen in normal development, as temperamental traits and as part of social cognitive disorders such as autism spectrum conditions. The disruptive nature of these conditions represent a significant stressor for families and a major source of strife in social contexts such as school. They may as well represent predictors of future deviance.
Methods Following up on published evidence, 24 children who met DSM IV diagnostic criteria for ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) were studied. Twelve children were referred to a program of Wa Do Ryu Karate as the sole intervention for a period of 10 months, while 12 received other treatment modalities (behavioral therapies and parent training approaches). The 12 children following the Karate class were assigned to a group of typically developing youngsters. Three domains of temperament felt to contribute to the clinical manifestations of externalizing symptoms were studied: adaptability, intensity of response, and mood regulation.
Results A significant improvement in all temperamental variables was noted in all participating children compared to controls.
Conclusions Karate, when properly taught, may be a valid and effective adjunct, if not the sole treatment, in the multi-modal approach to externalizing conditions of childhood.