Autoimmune encephalitis is a rare disease most often diagnosed in teenage girls.

Sincere’s mom was shocked when she got the diagnosis for her energetic 4-year-old who loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

She wanted to enroll him in karate after watching him imitate ninja cartoons. But she wasn’t sure if he would struggle. The most common symptoms of the disease are cognitive impairment, involuntary movements, and difficulty speaking. 

But none of those symptoms were apparent in karate class and instructors didn’t even know about the diagnosis.

“With the ninja nunchaku kata, Sincere came up right in front of the class. He knows all the moves. He’s doing the advanced kata,” said his karate teacher Mr. Tariq.

To Tariq, Sincere is a fun kid to have in class.

“With his energy, he always wants to bring in extra moves,” Tariq said. When buildings had to close again at the end of 2020, Tariq was able to work with Sincere to develop some of his creative moves during a few weeks of private outdoor classes. He’s looking forward to continuing to highlight his creativity, while also helping him improve his confidence. 

To Sincere’s mom, his ability to grasp complicated moves has given him a new sense of identity. “Especially the focus, he’s been able to apply it in school…even him just being proud of himself. He had so much self-doubt with almost everything. He’s setting these goals and knocking them out,” she said. 

Tariq said that as much as he loves seeing improvement in karate, it’s more meaningful when he’s able to apply it at school and home. 

“Karate aligns the same values as parents. I love to hear you guys use words like integrity. I’m walking away at home and say I hope you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. He’s like, ‘that’s integrity.”