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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
Along the wall, children glide across the zip line one at a time, their feet dangling and mouths giggling in a spectrum of joy.
Parallel to that scene, the trampoline rocks, with kids laughing and bouncing. In between the two attractions, dozens of children -- some on the autism spectrum, some not -- spin, swing and smile through a myriad of gym activities.
Welcome to We Rock the Spectrum, a "kids gym for all kids" which opened April 19 in west Boca Raton. It welcomes all children and offers special equipment for children on the autism spectrum.
The sensory gym is a dream come true for owner Gail Field of Boca Raton, whose 4-year-old son, Jayson, is on the autism spectrum.
"I just had to do it for Jayson and kids like him," Field said. "There wasn't a place in Florida for kids like Jayson to play. I'm doing this not just for Jayson, but because it's needed."
Jayson, who is non-verbal, has a tough time at most indoor playgrounds. Field, always active in the parent teacher associations for her two older teenagers, wasted no time scouring the internet for solutions for Jayson. She ended up in California, where she connected with Dina Kimmel.
Kimmel is the founder and president of We Rock the Spectrum Kid's Gym. The top of her business card, and the header on the website (www.werockthespectrumkidsgym.com) reads: "Finally a place where you never have to say I'm sorry."
Kimmel encountered a similar plight to Fields. Her son, Gabriel, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 2, and they struggled to find a place to play. She transformed a bedroom into an indoor gym, which was the impetus for the first We Rock the Spectrum.
Now, after opening 10 gyms in California, the chain has gone nationwide with the Boca Raton site, at 19635 State Road 7, Suite 46 on the south end of the Shoppes at Boca Greens.
The grand opening on April 19 was the biggest Kimmel has seen of all her stores.
"I've been on cloud 9 since I left Florida," said Kimmel, who personally greeted each family at the opening. "Parents were so grateful to have a place they could bring their special needs kids to. It was a dream for me -- a dream come true."
Kimmel has plans to expand throughout South Florida, with locations in Miami and Boynton Beach in the works.
Since the opening, Fields' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/bocaratonwrts, has exploded with positive feedback from parents.
"I want to give a special thanks to Gail and her team," posted Arlene Rizo, who made the trip from Miami with her two boys. "The gym is sensory friendly with the best assistants I ever encountered. It's a sweet family oriented place and the admission fee is very affordable. Just a great place for our kids on the spectrum."
The gym's hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
All-day open play is $12, and you can also drop your child off for "break-time" for up to three hours at a time.
The mornings are a little quieter, but once 2 p.m. hits and school lets out the gym is jam-packed, with about half typical children and the other half on the spectrum. This mix is ideal for social skills.
Field has big plans to diversify the gym. Karate, yoga, Mommy and Me classes, music and art lessons as well as a variety of therapies are in the works. She also hopes to host a haircutting day and a teen night. Already, teenagers both typical and on the spectrum, work and volunteer at the gym.
"My goal is to take everything your typical child can do and have all kids come and do it at my gym," Field said. "This is going to be a place where you can come and get whatever you need."
As you enter the gym, you are greeted by shelves of educational toys like arts and craft supplies, puzzles, and costumes for purchase. These activities are also offered at the gym. Glue was drying on art projects at the opening.
A plethora of places to hang out, as well as a hammock adorn the room. An Imagination Center in the back has a train table, building boxes, a child-sized kitchen, circus tent and workout toys. Children can spend hours and be entertained.
"I'm making a dream a reality by turning a negative into a positive," Field said. "My son is playing side by side with other kids. That makes everything worth it."
According to the website, We Rock the Spectrum Kid's Gym is committed to providing a safe, nurturing, and fun environment to foster learning, exploration and safe sensory experiences. Through their nonprofit My Brother Rocks The Spectrum Foundation, the gyms provide social skills groups and activities for children across the spectrum.
For more information, visit www.werockthespectrumBocaRaton.com.