March 18, 2015 | In: Why We Rock
A visit to any one of our We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gyms will give parents and children the feeling they are about to participate in a therapy session until they see the other kids of the gym. Kids are always running, playing, joking, laughing, climbing, swinging and zipping on the zipline at We Rock and that is exactly how we like it! We have all the sensory equipment needed to aid children with special needs, but provide it in an environment that is simply meant to be fun.
Same but Different
Sessions with various therapists are designed to be specific. They give feedback to the child and the therapist in an effort to continuously work toward the improvement of the sensory functions the child may need assistance with. Even though our equipment is the same as what children see at the therapist office, our environment is social and fun, allowing children to discover for themselves what they can do on the various pieces of sensory based equipment.
The benefit of having a social environment works in a couple of ways. First, when children visit our gym and then go to their next therapy session, they are generally more accepting of using the equipment and more confident because they have already seen this same equipment at the gym and equate it to fun rather than to therapy. Second, when a child comes to the gym to use the sensory equipment in between his or her therapy sessions, not only are they gaining confidence, having fun, making friends and using up their energy, but they are improving the various sensory functions they need assistance with, often without even thinking about it.
The zip line is one great example of how this works. My son Gabriel needed therapy every day in order to continually show improvement in his sensory functions. The zip line provided a great way for him to gain the sensory compressions needed in his joints to help him improve these functions, all the while, Gabriel just thought he was having a lot of fun using an exciting piece of equipment such as the zip line.
Some kids need the benefit and constant sensory inputs of therapy seven days a week, but it can be extremely difficult for parents and therapists to provide that necessary time to their kids. Having a We Rock gym nearby allows parents to provide the necessary sensory inputs to their children from the specialized equipment on a daily basis, ensuring the child still gains the benefit from use of the equipment, even on days when therapy is not available.
Some parents have also seen the benefits of using the sensory equipment and purchase some for their own home. We have helped many parents set up a great in home gym in their bedrooms or garages or even the backyard to help them provide their kids with the equipment they need that will give them the sensory benefits they need on a daily basis.
Many times parents will meet their therapist at the gym and have the needed therapy session right inside the gym. This gives therapists feedback on a couple levels and allows them to take advantage of the equipment we have to offer. Therapists can steer kids towards using specific pieces of equipment, with the support of the parents and give kids a break occasionally during the session to run and play with the other kids. By doing this, the child is given a reward system they would not have at home or at the office of a therapist and are able to gain some social interaction during their therapy session.
Not only does this help the child to grow and gives them incentives to use the equipment directed by the therapist, but they are able to once again equate the equipment with fun rather than with therapy. Allowing therapists to use the gym for their sessions is also a huge money saver as an hour at our gyms typically only costs $12 per hour compared to the $150 per hour for a location designed and set up just for therapy.
As we move forward at We Rock the Spectrum, all new gyms will be required to have a therapy room as part of the gym makeup. We have seen the number of therapists who bring children to the gym to use the equipment; by creating a partnership with these therapists and a specific location in the gym for them to have individual therapy without distractions we can aid them in helping children more directly. This gives the therapist visiting our gym the ability to offer children the sensory break they desire throughout the therapy session and have the individual time needed in the therapy room.
The Truth About Therapists
Not all therapy is the same and sometimes what we believe about a specific therapy may need to be changed. This was the case with me and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy about four years ago. The literature and feedback I had received regarding ABA therapy made it sound like therapists were turning children into little robots and I was skeptical to work with an ABA therapist in our gyms.
One fine day, I noticed a therapist working with children at the gym, laughing, playing and having a great time, but also working to correct behavior as the behavior of the child would spiral out of control. The therapist would work with the child to correct the behavior and let them know what they were doing wasn’t acceptable, and gave them options for behavior modification, after which the child continued to play.
I was so stunned at how wonderful this therapy was I started a conversation with her only to find out she is an ABA therapist. I was shocked, but she informed me she loved our gym because the social aspect offered children the environment they needed to have outbursts and situations where therapy was a need and immediate behavior correction could take place in a controlled and fun atmosphere.
Needless to say, I was hooked thirty days later I started working specifically with her as an ABA therapist and have completely changed my mind as to how ABA therapy works and how our gym continues to provide children who have special needs with a place that is fun and therapeutic at the same time. She has now been working with our entire We Rock team for the past four years and I?m so thankful I had this one conversation that changed my mind forever to ABA therapy.
Even though We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gyms are not a substitute for therapy, our gyms provide the specialized equipment needed for the sensory function improvement children with special needs require. When children visit our gym, they are not getting therapy sessions from our Coaches who all know every aspect of using the equipment, but they are enjoying fun and play with their friends and family, while using the same equipment they use during therapy sessions. This allows children to feel more confident during therapy and provides them with the much needed sensory feedback more often than the therapy sessions can provide. By visiting We Rock in between therapy sessions, children make much more progress toward their goals while having a great time with their friends.