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FIGHTING AUTISM: Boxing Classes At Gleason’s Can Benefit Those On Autism Spectrum



FIGHTING AUTISM: Boxing Classes At Gleason’s Can Benefit Those On Autism Spectrum

Like so many thousands of people who have entered the doors of Gleason’s Gym, since 1937, with the trend increasing heavily in recent decades, Jessica Margulies found something within the semi-grungy confines that spoke to her soul.

Age 31, an Astoria, Queens resident, Margulies had craved something that would elevate her confidence level. For ten years, she’s been working with kids who are on the autism spectrum, and one year ago, she took up pugilism.

A co-worker had boxed for a spell and recommended it to her. It perked up her spirit, immediately. “I love it so much,” said Margulies, who trains with Dean Burrell at Gleason’s. “I was searchig for something throughout my life that makes me feel this strong. I feel like a badass! It gives me confidence in other parts of my life.”

One day, a lightbulb buzzed over head. What if some of these kids I work with, who struggle with socialization, communication, and focusing, could gain something from the sweet science? She thought maybe, like her, they’d get a kick out of doing something “they were told they can’t do.”

Margulies (pictured below with a neophyte pugilist) works in special ed, District 75, and right now works with a batch of six kids, grade 3-5. Two weeks ago, her and co-worker Ernesto Colon of Bayside, set up a booth at Citi Field, on Autism Awareness Day. They had focus mitts and such, and showed off some of what boxing can be.

“You should have seen the kids and parents faces,” she said.The concept was off and running…and will click into a higher gear with a class for kids with autism which begins at Gleason’s on Friday, June 11. “Autism is epidemic in the US and the discipline in boxing and the community building in boxing is what’s going to help them,” gym owner Bruce Silverglade said of the twice a week class. “The cameraderie of it, the fact that they’re going to be communicating with one another…we feel it’s going to be very helpful, and a relief to the parents!

And, he wanted me to make sure to say, there will not be any contact drills, beyond smacking a pad or bag. He’s had for the last two years a program at Gleason’s for people with Parkinson’s. He’s seen immense benefit accrued to participants with Parkinson’s who’ve tried boxing, and is optimistic the autism community can also be helped.

Margulies knows in her heart that kids in the class—and you can contact Gleason’s…


for details, or click here—will be helped with their socialization, communication and focus.

“Boxing I’m hoping will work on all three of those things. I haven’t found any other such program in NY, or even in all of the US! The parents we’ve talked to seem to be very excited, they said there’s nothing like it around, but they are grateful because they’ve been looking everywhere.”

My take: Spread the word, please forward this story to anyone you know who might be interested in the program. Margulies and company are deeply committed and my intuition tells me this will be a home run.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the thought to be impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine,, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live since 2017. He now does work for PROBOX TV, the first truly global boxing network.