BELLEVUE, Washington -- A gym has opened near Seattle designed for children on the autism spectrum. It’s an inclusive space for children to play and have fun and parents to bond with other parents, and it's open to all children.
From treadmills and cocoon swings to trampolines and ziplines, the We Rock The Spectrum Kid's Gym in Bellevue, Washington opened its doors to a community eager for a special place for special kids.
“They were so full of joy. They loved the zip-line. Everything they touched was just designed for kids with autism and a lot of other kids here as well, with the same thing, so it’s nice for them to have peers like that as well,” said Randall Casper, a father to two young boys who are both on the autism spectrum.
Among the many toys and activities are 10 pieces of sensory equipment designed to stimulate kids on the spectrum.
“Getting a couple hours here, it calms her down at the end of the day. We bring her home, and she’s calm. It's like therapy,” said Jennie, a mother who has an 11-year-old daughter on the spectrum.
Equipment like special carpeted swings help children with posture and give them texture to play with. Tunnels also provide a safe, hideout space for children to calm down if they feel a sensory overload.
“It touched me. I caught myself wanting to cry a few times today,” said Desirae, a mother who has a nine-year-old son who struggles with ADHD and other sensory issues.
She said it’s hard for him to make friends, and at the gym, he met several children he played with.
“Outside playgrounds are very challenging, and they don’t understand what your kids are struggling with and they judge you for it,” she added.
It's a non-judgmental place where parents simply understand the rigor and challenges of parenting a child on the spectrum.
“We can come here and play and it’s not a matter of me shifting her if she acts a certain way. It’s an understanding among parents,” said Jennie.
"I don't feel so alone anymore. I felt really, really alone before this place opened,” said Desirae, who shared she felt especially alone as a single mom.
“People are more nicer, “ said Ethan, a nine-year-old who recalled his fun day at this gym where he felt more welcome than at public playgrounds.
The gym can also be booked for birthday parties and play dates. Drop-in rates are available as well as monthly punch cards.