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Classes help kids with disabilities break down barriers

Taekwondo classes for children with disabilities are helping to break down barriers and improve the behaviour of students.

The martial arts classes are designed for children with autism and other disabilities

The martial arts classes are designed for children with autism and other disabilities, providing a more inclusive place for them to learn and be themselves.

Martial arts have been in Nicola Harrod's life since she was only five years of age.

Her cerebral palsy and autism have been with her even longer.

She now has a black belt in Taekwondo.. but it was hard won.

She says mainstream sports can be difficult for people with disability.

"I just kept hearing stories of kids being asked to leave because they were too disruptive or kids just choosing to leave because they just couldn't keep up," she says.

With that in mind, Harrod launched her own Taekwondo training program called 'No Limits Taekwondo' in Canberra.

It's a class for all abilities, according to Harrod.

"They have enough trouble in their everyday life to just be included with anything. They have trouble socially, they have trouble making friends at school."

But these kids are thriving in the inclusive environment.

It's putting them on the right path in the classroom.

"School has improved. The teacher says that he's been sitting down a lot more," says one mother Donna Smith.

"You know Thomas is quite aggressive in the classroom and this last week his aggression has reduced which has been amazing," says another mother Cassandra Heath.

Taekwondo is offering skills in discipline and self defence.

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"My fear is when he grows up he's going to be picked on and this is one thing that he might remember to do," says Heath.

And the students seem to like it too: "It was my favourite class in the whole world," says one boy.

Harrod teaches students aged six to 10 - all with different abilities.

The group is kept small to maximise support, while Harrod has help instructing from her husband, Houssam Shebaily.

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