18 March 2024



There is a little girl called Tíalilja. She is 8-year-old with special needs, specifically, autism. She has been doing judo for almost two years now, BUT, prior to that, her parents tirelessly tried to sign her up to other sporting activities. However, no-one would accept her.

Until one day, when Judo Club Reykjanesbær (JRB) welcomed her and her family with open arms and just like that, Tíalilja was able to call herself a judoka. The family also attended at the most recent kids festival where the mom expressed her absolute joy and appreciation for judo;

I am so proud of my girl. Thank you JRB for accepting Tíalilja. So thankful for this club that was the only sports club in the southern region in Iceland who opened the door for her and accepted her. No other sport was accepting her. Tíalilja can’t talk but gave smiles and hugs to everyone after receiving the participation certificate and the EJU pin. We are truly grateful.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopment disorder characterised by difficulties in communication and social interaction. The current standard treatment for ASD includes a combination of psychosocial therapy, medication, and alternative treatments.

A pilot study took place in America last year during which it was assessed whether participation in judo improved behaviour and social skills in children with ASD. Result from these study demonstrated improvement across all six categories that were evaluated. The category with the greatest improvement was ‘Behaviour at home’. The importance of these pilot studies is to comprehend that participating judo long term may help children with special needs to improve their social and behavioural skills in multiple environments and improve their quality of life.

EJU Leader of Adaptive judo, Marina DRASKOVIC added;

A story like Tialilja’s confirms the values of judo, but also shows the potential that judo can be brought to the entire community. Although adapted judo is not as developed as mainstream judo, we work every day to create new opportunities across Europe for children with different abilities. The feeling of belonging through judo and in the judo community should be a guiding thread for all of us. Tialilja’s experience is an opportunity to give everyone a new dose of inspiration and encouragement in creating a judo community that can welcome everyone in our family.

Welcome to the family Tíalilja!

Images: Tíalilja’s mom

Author: Szandra Szogedi