FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kids shrieked, ran, climbed, bounced, swung and spun. They mashed Play-Doh into shapes, stacked blocks and pretended to grocery shop.
It was the grand opening of an inclusive gym for special needs kids in Fort Myers.
More than 120 families walked through the doors of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, located at 17640 South Tamiami Trail, on November 9. They were greeted by colorful sensory equipment, including carpet and hammock swings, a zipline with a crash pit and trampolines.
Zara Flores-Bernard, 3, jumps on the trampoline at the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
The indoor playground allows kids of all abilities to have hands-on experiences and reach mental and physical milestones. Even if they aren’t usually social, kids who see others interacting may mirror their behaviors and begin to socialize.
Xenon Harry, 2, pops out of a tunnel and smiles at Julian Fralicker, 5, at We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
That’s according to franchise owner Vandana Patel, whose daughter Zara has Angelman syndrome and was the inspiration for her to open the first We Rock the Spectrum gym in Fort Myers. The gym is one of seven locations currently open in Florida and is the first in Southwest Florida.
Vandana Patel and Zara, 6, pose for a photo during the grand opening of We Rock the Spectrum in Fort Myers on November 9.
Kids of all ages and abilities are welcome to play, encouraging inclusion and education about different disorders. Because there are “more and more kids that are being diagnosed with autism,” Vandana said she felt the need for an inclusive gym where you could “meet kids and parents who get it.”
Keaura Ansah, 2, smiles as she swings during We Rock the Spectrum’s grand opening in Fort Myers.
Red letters on the wall relate the gym’s motto: “Finally a place where you never have to say I’m sorry.”
Brody LaPointe, 6, rides the zipline in the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
For Bonita Springs mom Jennifer Ross, that’s an important distinction. Her 4-year-old daughter Lexi loves to throw mulch at other kids when she’s playing outdoors, which can get her into trouble.
But at We Rock, Lexi was taking turns with another little girl, ringing the doorbell to be let into a tiny playhouse and then answering the door for her, over and over again.
Zara Flores-Bernard, 3, laughs at a boy hiding from his friends as Lexi Ross, 4, opens the door to the playhouse in the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
“She gets to play in her own way, and you know, here it’s okay if she doesn’t interact with other people the way she’s ‘supposed to,'” Jennifer said.
Gaudy Rivera, 5, climbs the jungle gym with the help of her mom inside the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
Kelsey Wentworth pushes Brody LaPointe, 6, in a boat-shaped swing in the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
Zara Flores-Bernard, 3, peeks through the window of a playhouse during the grand opening of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers on November 9.
Kids and parents interact with the sensory equipment in the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
Lexi Ross, 4, crawls through a tunnel in the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
Keaura Ansah, 2, throws her hands up in a boat-shaped swing in the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Fort Myers.
See original article here.