Those of us who live in the Lake Travis area know we have a very special community. Whether it’s in our exemplary schools, on our beautiful playgrounds, at our loving houses of worship, or in our neighborhoods, Lake Travis residents have built an amazing community. And this is especially evident for families with special needs children. There are many inspiring stories happening in our own backyard that are a testament to the Lake Travis community and how it helps these children grow and thrive.
When Steele Hale was first diagnosed with autism at the age of three, he was nonverbal and had minimal core body strength, so he couldn’t do simple physical activities most children his age have no problem doing. Thanks to immediate occupational and speech therapy, Steele was able to begin his elementary school journey in Lake Travis as a kindergartner. The students, parents, teachers and staff accepted Steele with open arms and he began to thrive. And thanks to a timely piece of advice from Sam Hicks, the principal at Lakeway Elementary, Steele began practicing martial arts.
The unbelievably talented and patient martial arts master with the infectious smile, Robert Roy, began working with Steele at World of Tennis in Lakeway and after only a few lessons, the changes in him were amazing. Not only was Steele increasing his core strength, physical control and confidence, the martial arts techniques were therapeutic.
“Kung fu helped Steele develop both sides of his brain because techniques require students to alternate quickly between left brain and right brain skills, which many autistic children struggle with,” explains Roy, a twice Hall of Fame inductee as kung fu master who trained in China at the Shaolin Temple.
Steele’s transformation was so impressive, that he performed a staff-fighting combat routine in his talent show last year (with Roy as his partner) in front of a huge crowd. He even unexpectedly grabbed the mic and spoke to the audience to get them excited about his routine. Steele was no longer living under the shadow of autism, he was outshining it.
Roy, who teaches private and group lessons, has been actively leading the martial arts community in Austin for many years. As the owner of Martial Arts Academy, he was active in Crime Stoppers programs, worked with the Austin Police Department’s SWAT Unit, the Department of Public Safety officers and the Parks and Recreation Department in Brazoria County. He is a two-time Hall of Fame inductee as kung fu Master and Living Legend of the Year.
He is currently working on bully prevention resources like certification programs and e-books, designed to supplement anti-bullying campaigns nationwide and provide a clearer understanding of how ancient martial arts benefits child development.
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