Kim Holcomb, Michael King, and Saint Bryan host from Mrs. Turner’s Diner in Puyallup. FEATURING: Hens 4 Hire, Rampathon at Warm Beach Horse Camp, Adult Skate Night at Pattison’s West, Vance Creek Rail Riders, and We Rock the Spectrum Sensory Gym in Bellevue.
Kirkland parents Shirley and Martin Sarmiento-Blaha were looking for a gymnasium for their six-year-old twin boys.
Their sons are on the autism spectrum. The gyms they found were too overwhelming for the boys.
“It might be too noisy or there might be too many children. And they might be fine for a few minutes and then all of a sudden they’re just overwhelmed and have a lot of meltdowns.
“Dealing with the meltdowns in public is a little challenging, too. You know everybody’s looking at you, and they’re screaming and hitting everything and throwing stuff.
“So we were thinking, is there a place where we could take them where maybe it wouldn’t be so challenging and the environment may be easier for them?” Martin Sarmiento-Blaha said.
A little boy sat on the gym floor, crying.
He continued to have what his mother, co-owner of We Rock the Spectrum, called a “meltdown” as her co-worker tried to figure out what was ailing him.
Ten minutes later, he was calm, reading a book in a special room called the Quiet Room.
The squishy blue floor, trampoline, zip line and specialty rooms meant to engage children with autism are all part of Bellevue’s new sensory gym that opened June 10. The gym is specially designed for sensory engagement, fun and self-care and is part of an international franchise that was started in California.
The Eastside is rockin’ this summer, especially since the opening of a new kids gym in Bellevue. We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym provides a space for kids of all ability levels to play and grow together through “safe sensory experiences,” and is the only kid’s gym in our area that offers this inclusive philosophy. If this sounds like something your kids would flip for (literally!), read on for the rockin’ details.
BELLEVUE, WASH. – A new play gym on the eastside is designed to be a safe and engaging space for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
We Rock The Spectrum has a trampoline, climbing wall, zipline, and other activities that offer safe sensory experiences for kids with special needs. But it’s also open and welcoming to kids who aren’t on the spectrum.
“We want to have an inclusive environment where all kids of all abilities can play together and interact with each other,” said Shirley Sarmiento-Blaha.
She and her husband Martin opened the gym to help meet the needs of their own children. Six-year-old twins Dominick and Daniel were diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 ½.
Existing play spaces didn’t work for them.
BELLEVUE, Wash. — A new gym in Bellevue is designed to suit the needs of children on the autism spectrum. The gym is also open for all kids, not just ones on the spectrum. It’s an inclusive space for children to play and have fun and parents to bond with other parents.
From treadmills and cocoon swings to trampolines and ziplines, the We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Bellevue 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, 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 both on the autism spectrum.
As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, Dina Kimmel struggled with finding a safe place to take her son to work out his wiggles while also fulfilling the sensory needs he craved and allowing him to play alongside his sister.
In order to fill this void, Kimmel opened We Rock the Spectrum in Tarzana, California with the motto: “Finally a place where you never have to say ‘I’m sorry!’” This refers to the perceptions of those who might not understand the behaviors of children with special needs.
In recent years, Kimmel has franchised her business to cater to more families affected by autism or other special needs. Franchises have popped up in Florida, Texas, Missouri, New York, and Colorado with plans to open the first Washington-based We Rock the Spectrum in Bellevue.
Much like Kimmel, Shirley and Martin Sarmiento of Bellevue know what it’s like to struggle with finding a safe, worry-free place for their twin boys on the spectrum.
My Brother Rocks The Spectrum Foundation is our 501(c)3 (tax id #46-4393642) non-profit organization that helps families receive the funding they need to participate in our social skills/activity groups, classes, camps and more. This allows children to be able to use the specialized sensory swings and activities WRTS offers. We offer these groups to children and young adults from 2 to 18yrs of age.
Our mission is to provide all children with any ability or disability a place they can build friendships, keep active and learn to use their energy in their bodies in a productive environment. WRTS uses its equipment and activities to integrate children in this environment also through their Open Play and Break Time programs. We also receive funding from other state programs like the Regional Center, that provide one to one attendant care and other specialized services required to ensure all children can find the benefits of healthy play.
All funds donated to MBRTS are distributed to all of the WRTS locations Nationwide to complete our mission of giving families a community and, “finally a place where you never have to say I’m sorry.”
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Check out the latest clip with our CEO and hear about the amazing non-profit she has started in honor of her daughter Sophia.
“Being the Grand Club Sponsors for Walk Now for Autism Speaks Los Angeles was one of the most incredible days of my life!” says founder Dina Kimmel.We stood in front of over 60 thousand people and know now more than ever that when a WRTS is opening, we are making a difference in the world and giving a home to so many families. “Finally a place where you never have to say I’m sorry” is a need in all communities says Kimmel. A big thank you to Kathleen Lantos Photography as we now get to relive one of the most incredible days in WRTS history! Check out this amazing video above, and see what WRTS and Autism Awareness is all about…
How Siblings of Children with Autism are Affected
As parents of children with Autism, we understand they require specialized care and attention. Depending upon which part of the spectrum a child falls under, the extent of the support will vary from helping them accomplish daily tasks to needing assisted care on a continual basis. Regardless of the extent of the therapy solutions, parents try anything and everything to give their children the support they need to reach their full potential.
But what about the siblings of the children with autism?
Just like how parents’ lives change when they discover their child has autism, their other children are also affected but in a much different way. Siblings have to stand by and watch, feeling helpless as their beloved brother or sister is affected by a disorder they will not fully understand until later in life. This has the potential to cause anxiety and difficulty in expressing emotions, which can lead to the siblings lashing out at their parents or brother and sister.
Parents who have children that fall into these categories are often at a loss as to how they should address the problems their children are facing. On one hand, they know their child with autism needs the added attention and Occupational, Behavioral, or Speech therapy required. On the other hand, their neurotypical children are feeling neglected and possibly left out – which is also tough on the parents.
While the sibling who has autism is receiving the care and attention they need from therapy, the neurotypical siblings finds themselves watching, almost in the shadows, while the other child receives a large part of the attention. Even though many siblings of children with autism try to understand the need their brother or sister has for the added attention, feelings of jealousy, depression, anger and resentment often arise.
This was the case in my family prior to the creation of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym. My son Gabriel, who has autism, was receiving therapy from professionals as well as utilizing a sensory gym I had set up in my own home. Prior to the in-home gym, Gabriel would receive the lion’s share of attention while my daughter Sophia often stood by and missed out on some of her own activities. Even though Sophia tried hard to understand, she stated on more than one occasion, “I wish I had autism.” This broke my heart as I immediately knew this was her way of letting me know she felt left out and alone.
I want both of my children to feel that they are perfect the way they are, which inspired me to create an in-home gym full of fun, sensory equipment for Gabriel to improve his own skills but to also give Sophia a place where she can play with her brother and friends. It wasn’t quite everything Sophia needed, but it was a step in the right direction and drove me to create and found a gym that changed my family’s lives for the better, We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym.
We Rock the Spectrum not only allows children to play together, but offers a place where play dates can be arranged for a group. We did this early on with Sophia and Gabriel. He would get his necessary therapy in the gym, and she would be able to feel like a kid again and play with her friends.
Because the gym is monitored, safe, and regulated by the dynamic staff, children can make their own play dates with their own friends from school, camp, or other social groups and meet to play and have a great time. With the option to set up play dates for your children and their friends, parents no longer have to worry about telling their typically developing children they cannot have a play date because of a therapy need of their sibling with autism.
By having the ability to play together at We Rock the Spectrum, families with children who fall into both categories now have the ability to say “yes” much more often than ever before, allowing all children to play, have fun, and feel important. Benefiting the entire family, We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym helps to create a more positive dynamic at home and allows children who are typically developing to feel they are receiving similar attention as their sibling with autism.
My Brother Rocks the Spectrum
My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation’s mission is to assist families who need additional financial assistance for the therapy and care of their children with special needs to receive the support they deserve.
My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation was created in honor of Sophia, my daughter who rocks every single day. Sophia has watched as her brother Gabriel has grown and developed from the time he was diagnosed with autism to how capable he is today. Not only have Sophia and Gabriel been the inspiration for my creation of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, but Sophia has become a young therapist in her own right. It wasn’t always easy, but her curiosity to learn, determination to assist her brother, and desire to help others has led her to have a positive influence on many of the children at We Rock the Spectrum. Over and over again, we see children who are typically developing assisting their friends and siblings who have special needs, a dynamic that is allowed to foster and grow in our gyms by having an inclusive philosophy and gyms full of amazing parents and staff. Here is what Sophia had to say: “I feel great because I can help my brother and I can help other kids, even kids with Down Syndrome. I am not a Junior Helper any more, I am now a Coach.”
The foundation helps to fund a variety of activities at the gym for families who qualify and need the assistance, including monthly memberships and equipment. The foundation also helps families finance the personal aide some children with special needs require in order to attend a camp or activities at the gym. As the cost for a full-time or part-time aide for a child can become extremely expensive, the foundation is able to help defer some of these costs in order to allow all children to experience the benefits found at the gym through camps and play time.
Through both the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym and My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation, all children, whether suffering developmental disabilities or not, are able to take full advantage of the fantastic, specially designed equipment, open play area, arts and crafts section and come away with a feeling of peace, happiness and accomplishment!