Article from the Autism Research Institute, April 2010, San Diego, CA

Mind/Body Techniques Open Promising Pathways for Individuals with Asperger's

Martial Arts Expert Vicente Rubio's new book offers tips for improving body awareness, coordination, and balance. What do you get if you cross martial arts with Zen philosophy with elements of dance training? Odds are your first guess wouldn't be "a novel form of therapy for Asperger's Syndrome." Yet these unlikely ingredients are exactly what Vicente Rubio combines in his approach to mentoring individuals with Asperger's. As Ron explains in his recent book, Mind/Body Techniques for Asperger's Syndrome: The Way of the Pathfinder, almost all of his Asperger's clients have issues with body awareness, coordination, and balance.   Naturally, such limitations affect confidence and self-esteem. Vicente, who suspects he is an Aspie himself and is scheduled to be tested, had many of these same body issues growing up. "I was awkward, I didn't know how to move, but dance saved me - I studied with Alvin Ailey, and dance taught me discipline ... it taught me how to move into a room and capture the attention of everyone in the room." Vicente communicates this heightened sense of body awareness to his clients, which results in changes to their posture and their gait, and combined with a large dose of philosophy that he imparts, it also improves their self-confidence. "For me, the mind/body connection is sacred -- it's an anchor that enables them to feel grounded, and it creates a strong sense of self-assurance. I have a 5th-degree black belt in aikido, I've studied and practiced martial arts for over twenty-five years, and the whole idea of warriorship, which conveys the whole idea of mind/body oneness, is also sacred to me."   Vicente explains that because most of his clients grew up playing some form of video games involving combat, they are very receptive to learning the traditions of real warriorship via aikido. They learn the rituals including (wooden) sword training to improve coordination, cleansing breathing exercises to improve concentration, and classic aikido movements to promote fearlessness.  Such exercises as "Eye of the Hurricane," are favorites with his AS and ASD students. "The ability to remain calm in the middle of surrounding chaos is a skill that the students crave" says Ron, "and largely focuses on learning to breathe and stay in the present moment." Interwoven throughout the exercises is an awareness of both concentration and energy. "I am a conduit of energy" Vicente explains. "I feel inspired by something greater."   As a mentor, Vicente establishes a special relationship with the kids and young adults that goes beyond merely teaching them techniques. "I take an active interest in their life. I advocate for them. When I advocate for them in within a school district, I'm like a mentor of old - almost like a bodyguard...I feel protective of my clients, and they trust me...  It makes me feel good to be a part of their lives and watch them grow and mature, knowing that I've helped them develop more confidence."   Vicente (formerly Ron) works with clients between 8 and 35 in New York, Oregon and California.