Where does your child with autism like to play?
Is there a gym near you where your child is not only accepted but welcomed with special equipment that is tailored to his needs?
We Rock the Spectrum is special sensory gym with locations all around the United States.
One mother I know recommended one of these gyms in the St. Louis area. She told me that, while she had only visited the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fenton, MO that there are actually two others in the greater metropolitan area, one in St. Ann, MO and the other in Edwardsville, IL. When I checked out the website I discovered that this gym has facilities all over the United States and even has some international locations.
One day I found myself in the same strip shopping center as the Fenton location, so I took the time to pop into the gym. The first thing that caught my eye was a swing, the kind a child could lay on, that was similar to some I had seen in the therapy room at the school where I taught. As I looked around, I noticed other pieces of specialized equipment I had seen when I was teaching.
I approached the owner to ask questions and was introduced to a visitor from the main office in Tarzana, CA, Shane Stendahl, who later shared some information with me about the origins of We Rock Gyms.
Shane explained that the Dina Campbell, the founder of the company, was frustrated at being kicked out of facilities when her son Gabriel had meltdowns. He said the company was founded because “our CEO has a daughter that is neurotypical and a son that is on the autism spectrum, so she wanted to open up a place which both of her kids could enjoy.”
Recently, I have stumbled across various articles or videos by autistic individuals who reflect on why, as a society, we can’t do a better job of changing some of our public environments to be more friendly to people with different sensory systems. One person used shopping malls as an example pondering on why the music had to be so loud and the lights quite so bright. As someone who avoids stepping into movie theaters because the volume hurts my ears, I can see her point. Why does everyplace need to be so loud and bright?
We Rock the Spectrum has created a children’s gym that is especially suited to kids with sensory challenges. Their gyms don’t have bright lights and loud sounds and the colors are neutral.
These children’s gyms go a step further. Not only do they avoid bombarding the senses, they provide specific equipment to actually help children regulate their senses. Shane Stendahl told me:
“If you come into any one of our facilities, you’ll see our specialized pieces of equipment.”
Shane continued, “We actually have ten specialized pieces of equipment that are required in every single We Rock Gym and a lot of these pieces of equipment are similar pieces [to what] you would find at an occupational therapy clinic. But any children could hop on that swing and have an absolute great time…All families [can] come and bring their kids to have an absolutely great time but parents with a child on the spectrum sort of recognize a lot of the things in the gym [that] make the experience a lot easier and a lot more fun for their kids that have autism spectrum disorder, any sort of special needs for that matter.”
“Some other things what we have is very neutral colors within our facilities. We don’t have any bright flashing lights or loud noises like you would have at a standard arcade. It’s just these small little things that make it specialized for children that are on the spectrum.”
“We also have in all of our facilities a calming room, so that if a child is having a hard time…they could go into that room that has very dim lighting. A lot of them have a sound machine with very calm sounds like you’ve seen actually at the Fenton location. We have that calming room over in the back with a little sound generator. We even have those cool colored bubble tubes or different themes.
For example, the Boca Raton gym’s calming room is an outer space sort of theme. They can go in there where there is…a more secure environment where they can get their equilibrium back in place, jump right on back on to the gym floor, and have a great time.”
“One thing we definitely try to have in all our gyms is the ability for parents to see their child no matter where they’re at in our facility.”
That is a very important part, especially for parents that have a child…that is possibly an eloper. They always want to make sure they have eyes on their child in case they dart out.”
If you live in a location that has a We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym check it out. Check for other We Rock facilities worldwide at https://www.werockthespectrumkidsgym.com/.