The Autism Spectrum: Its Definition, A Diagnosis, and Making Difference

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An Autism Spectrum Diagnosis can't stop anyone from achieving their dreams. ​Discover the details of ASD and the journey of this proud father, as well as the benefits of his 's Karate-focused non-profit that supports the notion: "Anything is possible when you believe in it."

Andre Langevin

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop. We still have much to learn about these causes and how they impact people with ASD.

People with ASD may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. There is often nothing about how they look that sets them apart from other people. The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly. For example, some people with ASD may have advanced conversation skills whereas others may be nonverbal. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others can work and live with little to no support.

ASD begins before the age of 3 years and can last throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children show ASD symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In others, symptoms may not show up until 24 months of age or later. Some children with ASD gain new skills and meet developmental milestones until around 18 to 24 months of age, and then they stop gaining new skills or lose the skills they once had.

As children with ASD become adolescents and young adults, they may have difficulties developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviors are expected in school or on the job. They may come to the attention of healthcare providers because they also have conditions such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which occur more often in people with ASD than in people without ASD.  

Our story begins here 

It was in 1994, while we were stationed in British Columbia for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that my better half Nathalie gave birth to our son Philippe. When he reaches the age of 18 months, we begin to observe in him behaviors different from other children.  As I worked in several isolated places in 1996, we do not have easy access to medical services.

The Autism Spectrum diagnosis

In 2000, the Gendarmerie transferred us to Quebec so that Philippe could have access to it because his behaviors were increasingly difficult to understand and manage. He was then diagnosed by a multidisciplinary team from Ste-Justine Hospital with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a severe language problem, a fine motor problem, and hyperactivity.  

At this time, my wife and I were severely affected by general anxiety problems, which made the family situation even more explosive.

She was the first to get involved and participate in lots of activities with Philippe (soccer, scouts, etc.), to help him develop his social skills, which at the time were very poor.

It was in 2006 that I decided to start teaching karate classes with him since he could not participate alone. Observing the positive impact he saw, I decided in 2008 to found the Autisme Karate school to regularly help Philippe and hundreds of other children with the same disorders.

Currently, about a hundred students with ASD practice regularly every weekend, within 4 homogeneous class levels. Classes vary from 3 to 60 years old and include several types of challenges: verbal, non-verbal, hyperactive, etc.

The unique Karate connection 

I am very proud of my son Philippe’s career, who is now 28 years old with a Black Belt in Kyokushin karate, as well as a graduate of McGill University in mathematics. Since 2008, more than 3,000 people with Autism Spectrum Disorder have benefited from our unique programs.

What’s different with us is that we are all parents or autistic instructors with autism karate, this makes a huge difference when comes time to make a connection with our students because we deeply understand what they are going through. 

Our program is based on many activities to improve proprioception. Our program was developed to have a positive impact on the proprioception of students, to feel their bodies and movements and effects, we also work to improve the confidence of students by performing several scenarios in which they must confront a bully, the concentration is reinforced among other things by the practice of techniques and katas or to make choreographies that resemble a dance. We also work to improve your child’s balance and physical appearance through our program. 

Autisme karate is also very involved in offering its program free of charge to people with Autism with monetary concerns with karate autism our community organization. ​Discover all the benefits of our unique and inspiring programs that support that: "Anything is possible when you believe in it!" 

About the author: 

Andre Langevin, deeply affected by his son's diagnosis of autism at the age of five, has since devoted his entire life to helping his son and families struggling with autism by using martial arts.