Many of us who know about autism are familiar with the fact that it is a spectrum disorder. If you did not know this and are thinking to yourself what is meant by the word “spectrum”, we can help you! Each individual who has autism is on a spectrum, meaning that no two people with autism are the same. Each person has different abilities and talents. Some individuals may be verbal, whereas others may be nonverbal and have limited speech, and thus communicate through other means such as sign language or tablets. Some individuals with autism may be more independent, whereas others may not be. The list of differences goes on and on. Just like a spectrum is not black and white, neither is autism. People do not fall exactly on one extreme of the spectrum; they can be in the middle or anywhere on it.
Being diagnosed with autism does not set an individual apart from the rest of society. We are all humans with thoughts and feelings and we all have hopes and dreams that we want to work towards. Ethan Fineshriber, an 11 year old boy with autism, has been literally fighting to beat stereotypes about individuals with disabilities.
Ethan was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. His mother, Mara Fineshriber, described to us how he had trouble communicating and connecting with his peers and that he struggled with sensory sensitivity. He was put in occupational, speech, and group therapy for two years which helped him tremendously. However, his mother decided that he needed to get more involved and exercise more so she put him in martial arts at the age of 7. His mother stated that joining martial arts “…was the start of his coming out of his shell and having more success in making friends and communicating with others”.
Ethan was a natural and began competing in two martial arts leagues, American Taekwondo Association (ATA) and National Black Belt League (NBL) for National and World Champion titles. He has earned many National Championships and is currently ranked number one in the world in his age division for Extreme Martial Arts in the ATA. However, these wins are not enough for Ethan. He hopes to earn a world championship title. He came close in second place in the world last year. Ethan hasn’t given up on this dream. This year, he is ranked in the top 5 in 10 different events among the two leagues he is a part of and he wants to compete again and come in first place to earn the title of World Champ. Can you say, wow?
Ethan is very passionate about martial arts and he jumps at the opportunity to teach someone more about the subject. You can find many one minute martial arts tutorials about different moves on his youtube account. Ethan also makes friends more easily now and does well in school, he’s even on the honor roll! Although, Ethan has autism and will have his unique character that makes him special, nothing stop him from chasing (or leaping towards) his dreams. Ethan is an example of many people who are not defined by their diagnosis and who push through–or in this case, kick and punch through the obstacles in their lives.
Be sure to watch Ethan’s awesome tutorials and follow his journey on Instagram @ethanfineshriber!