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COVID-19 is not holding back these mums! We Rock the Spectrum opens four gyms

We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym, an international children’s gym franchise, is opening four new facilities over the next month.

The unveiling of the four sites in Sydney West, Geelong, Moorabbin and Wollongong despite the impact of COVID-19 is testament to the business concept.

We Rock the Spectrum is a franchise that provides sensory-safe play for kids with autism, special needs, and neurotypical development. Each gym features therapeutic equipment and sensory beneficial play opportunities.

Equipment is specifically designed for children on the spectrum, while providing all children with the sensory experience necessary for improved learning and neurological development.

The brand originated in California when mum, Dina Kimmel, CEO and founder of We Rock the Spectrum, created a safe place where both her daughter and her autistic son could go together.

We Rock the Spectrum opens four gyms

This concept caught the attention of a group of mums of special needs kids in Australia. Melbourne parent Sally Johnson knew first hand the pain of having an autistic child feel excluded from play areas.

Sally and her brother Marcus opened up the first We Rock the Spectrum gym in Australia, in Preston, Victoria.

Sally said “Almost from day dot we started receiving calls and emails asking when gyms were coming to more communities across Australia. This is now happening with the most fabulous group of special needs mums!

“The gyms are more needed now than ever and we have modified programs and strict COVID specific practices in place.’”

The group will continue the success seen at We Rock the Spectrum’s first Aussie outlet by providing NDIS Registered sensory-beneficial play spaces for inclusive play, respite, therapeutic supports, parties, all abilities classes and group activities.

Sally’s expansion plan is to have 30 gyms and five mobile gyms up and running around Australia over the next three years.

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Autism groups helping with COVID-19 anxiety - Herald Sun Australia

Autism groups helping with COVID-19 anxiety – Herald Sun Australia

Families everywhere are facing huge adjustments to daily life as a result of COVID-19.

But for children with autism, the uncertainty caused by school shutdowns and coronavirus fears presents unique challenges.

We’ve compiled expert information on how to talk about coronavirus with kids with autism, where you can get NDIS advice and the all-abilities gym offering free respite for the children of essential services workers.

Amaze chief executive Fiona Sharkie said between 40-70 per cent of people on the spectrum experienced significant anxiety, which could be exacerbated by shutdowns, a loss of routine, and seeing others distressed about COVID-19.

“It is a very confusing and uncertain time and with schools and workplaces shutting down, that can make it very difficult for people with autism to cope,” she said.

Confusion about whether you could access special supermarket shopping hours, potential stock shortages of favourite foods and seeing people wearing – or you being forced to wear – PPE masks could also be distressing.

Ms Sharkie said Amaze was in regular contact with the National Disability Insurance Agency to be able to advise people how their funding could be used at this time.

“We know some people have funding for transport to school or things like that, so we’re seeking the best advice about whether that can be used for home equipment,” she said.

“We are building a bank of information based on what people are asking us.

“It is a challenging time but we are pulling together resources to support people the best way we can.”

She advised anyone with questions to contact the Amaze Autism Advisor service on 1300 308 699 (weekdays 8am-7pm), email at info@amaze.org.au or web chat at amaze.org.au

The NDIS website is also regularly updating with coronavirus information and support.

Sue Larkey, an expert in special education, advised using social scripts when explaining the coronavirus to children with autism.

“The advantage of social scripts is the children can refer back to them many times to boost understanding,” she said.

“Social scripts can also tell students what they can do by providing alternative situations.”

You can find out more about social scripts and Ms Larkey’s work here.

Autism Family Support Association secretary Amanda Golding said one of the greatest challenges was managing the uncertainty.

To tackle this she planned a schedule for her adult son – walks to the lake, DVDs to watch, a new jigsaw puzzle – the night before.

We Rock the Spectrum (WRTS) co-owner Sally Johnson said the all-abilities gym remained open for the time being.

Families can privately hire the Preston indoor playground, which is sanitised after every visit and has strict entry requirements, for a discounted $100 an hour to help children meet their sensory needs.

Ms Johnson said families accessing NDIS funds could contact WRTS to see if they could use the funding for private hire sessions.

While they had been forced to significantly reduce their school holiday respite program for public health reasons, Ms Johnson said they were looking at how they could offer families respite if schools remained closed after the break.

The organisation’s charity partner My Brother Rocks the Spectrum is sponsoring free care and drop-off services at We Rock the Spectrum for the children of people working in essential services such as healthcare, supermarket workers and emergency services crews.

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Kids franchise set to launch Aussie-first mobile gym – Franchise Business

Purpose-built inclusion franchise We Rock the Spectrum is set to roll out a Aussie-first mobile gym model across the country later this year.

Similar to a regular studio, the We Rock the Spectrum mobile gym will be equipped with purpose-designed apparatus aimed at improving sensory development in children with special needs.

The new format is a welcomed boost for communities lacking the physical means to introduce a bricks and mortar studio, offering further representation for the expanding global operation.

Sally Johnson, Australian master franchisee suggested the while We Rock on Wheels concept will better serve regional communities, it wasn’t the only benefit of the model.

“The We Rock on Wheels model caters to a more regional market, however it can also supplement the existing business,” Johnson told Inside Franchise Business.

“We do a lot of family-fun days, fetes and school incursions, but to set-up the sensory activities takes time. To be able to swing in with a bus, it’s exciting for us and the community. It won’t just be regional areas, but it makes sense, particularly in regions that may not be able to justify a bricks and mortar option.”

We Rock the Spectrum mobile gym

It’s been a massive two years for the US-born franchise. Since arriving in Australia, We Rock the Spectrum has experienced significant growth, with four new gyms set to open later this year.

“Both our new Sydney and Geelong gyms will be opening in 2020, with our Moorabbin, VIC and Wollongong, NSW gyms to follow,” Johnson said.

However, despite the growth across South-East Australia, all eyes are firmly on the new We Rock the Spectrum mobile gym concept. In addition to adding an increase in support for in-need communities, the offer is also a major boost for interested franchisees, with Johnson revealing the new model is likely to be significantly cheaper.

“We are currently in project management to launch our first bus in Australia. We are excited to offer this lower cost franchise option for communities,” she said.

“We understand that it’s not always easy for families to visit our gyms regularly – this way there is an option for us to visit them.”

The We Rock on Wheels mobile gym concept is currently being rolled out in the US, with Johnson confident to see the innovative new model Down Under this year.

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Australian-first special needs gym to expand nationally

Less than one year after launching in Australia, specialised gym franchise We Rock the Spectrum is making good on its promise to help special needs children across the country.

At the brand’s inaugural Team Australia conference, We Rock the Spectrum welcomed four new owners to the mix. The new operators will steer expansion across New South Wales and Victoria, with all gyms expected to open before year’s end.

The purpose-built centres incorporate specialised equipment such as slides, swings and zip-lines. All activities are aimed at aiding sensory and motor-skill development of children with processing disorders.

Sally Johnson is the Australian master franchisee who launched the model last year. The Victorian mum said the community support she has received has been truly inspiring.

“We’ve been so thrilled first off from a base level with the support from the local community with all of the things that we had hoped would happen in our single gym,” Johnson told Inside Franchise Business.

“We have a great mix of mainstream families and families with a special needs child. It’s been fantastic to see them learning from each other.”

Johnson revealed that since the Preston gym opened, she had been inundated with franchise enquiries.

“We had close to 200 enquiries come in. Nobody expected that, and what’s more, they were all amazing quality,” she said.

“They are coming from far-away places as well, perfectly positioned around the country. From Katherine to Margaret River, not places we’d put on our map.”

We Rock the Spectrum expansion

The latest four signings see We Rock the Spectrum unveil three sites in Victoria, at Geelong, Ringwood and Darebin, with New South Wales expansion in Wollongong and Western Sydney to follow.

“These were chosen as the initial round for a number of reasons, namely as they were people who stood out as ready to go, but also because they were in territories we knew would be successful and that had a real need,” Johnson said.

Johnson herself knows the importance of community programs and specialised businesses like this. Her son Digby was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at age two, and she revealed a number of the new owners shared similar stories.

“We’ve seen interest from other families to open in their local communities. To be able to join with other passionate families who have their own history or experience in the sector has been really successful already,” she said.

Dina Kimmel, We Rock the Spectrum founder was there at the Team Australia conference and said she was humbled to see the impact her business had made on the Australian public.

“We have already boarded four new owners, we weren’t expecting to open past two, so it’s been a tremendous response,” Kimmel said.

“At the end of the day, I am simply a wife and mother of a child with autism who was inspired to create this model because we had nowhere else to go. Just talking to all of customers and the community both here and overseas is just gratifying beyond belief.”

The We Rock the Spectrum story

The We Rock the Spectrum story is remarkable one. Kimmel’s son Gabriel was diagnosed with autism at age two, prompting her to reassess her professional career.

“When you receive that diagnosis, like I did with my son Gabriel, I’ve never felt so lonely in my life,” Kimmel said.

“I just wanted to do anything and everything for my son, and I was seeking a community that didn’t exist five to ten years ago. The first We Rock the Spectrum gym was actually created in my home, and after seeing miracles happen with Gabriel and my daughter, who is not special needs, in terms of inclusion, I thought ‘there’s got to be more families out there who need this as well’.”

She was right. Within ten years We Rock the Spectrum has grown from one home-based gym to a network of over 80 locations worldwide.

International growth

Aside from its enormous presence in California and Florida, We Rock the Spectrum has also launched gyms in both Dubai and Canada over the last 12 months.

Kimmel revealed that further discussions are in the works for Saudi Arabia, with Malaysian and Singaporean growth expected to come this year.

“It’s an awesome thing that happens when you do something meaningful, you see a growth and it’s organic,” Kimmel said.

“It isn’t about growing too quickly or expanding rapidly, we really try and control that growth, and we’ve found that adding two countries per year works best.”

Australian focus

While international growth is certainly on the cards, for now the focus is firmly on Aussie expansion. Johnson revealed that the brand is likely to surpass its original target of 30 to 35 Australian gyms.

“Now just seeing the level of interest, not just from prospective owners but from regions, local councils and politicians saying ‘how can we help?’, I’m beginning to think that may have been conservative,” she joked.

The ‘mumpreneur’ believes that if the latest interest is anything to go by, We Rock the Spectrum will go a long way in achieving its business and cultural goals.

“We had a few tears over the weekend, not just appreciating the hard work that’s already paying off, but also the shift in the world that we’re a small part in creating. It’s heart-warming as a parent, not just as a business owner.”

Do you have a passion for working with children too? Take a look at these great franchising opportunities.

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Special-needs gym opens in suburban Melbourne

A purpose-built gym designed for children with special needs, with customised equipment including slides, swings and ziplines has opened in the Melbourne suburb of Preston.

Equipment in the Australian-first gym, We Rock The Spectrum, a franchise of the USA brand, has been designed by occupational therapists with the aim of aiding the sensory development of children with processing disorders, while providing additional motor skill development.

Local mother, Sally Johnson and master franchisor behind the Preston opening and was inspired to bring the concept to Australia after seeing the benefits first-hand.

She explained “within my own special needs community, I see the desire families have to connect with one another.

“I also see how great families feel when they know their children are benefiting from activities that help them regulate their sensory needs, while having fun.”

Johnson’s son Digby was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at age two, and the pair struggled to find play centres where he felt included.

After learning about the We Rock The Spectrum model, Johnson traveled to the USA to see the gyms for herself, meeting with founder Dina Kimmel, who shares a familiar story.

Kimmel developed the specialised concept in 2010 after her two year old son, Gabriel was diagnosed with Autism, allowing families with special needs children to engage in sensory-beneficial activities.

Now in its fourth year of franchising, We Rock The Spectrum has over 70 locations across the globe, with the Preston opening marking the third international franchise and first for Australia.

While franchising some sectors of the fitness industry is seen as reaching saturation, the We Rock The Spectrum model caters to a traditionally under-represented market.

According to a recent study from AMAZE, Victoria’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder, only 4% of autistic Australians feel their community knows how to properly support them.

For more information www.werockthespectrumkidsgym.com and www.werockthespectrumaustralia.com/

Mother Throws Celebration for Lonely Kids

Louise Larkin was driving to work in Melbourne when she heard a little boy’s mother on the radio talking about how no one had showed up to his sixth birthday party.

The 34-year-old was so heartbroken by Logan Camilleri’s story that she decided to throw a celebration for all lonely and isolated children in her community to encourage social inclusion.

Three years later and Mrs Larkin is preparing to host the third ‘Friend In Me’ party at Seaworks Maritime Precinct, Williamstown, with interpreters and ‘sensory rooms’ available for deaf and autistic children.

Her message is simple – no child should be left behind.


Louise Larkin (left) was driving to work in 2016 when she heard Logan Camilleri’s (right) mother on FOX FM radio. Logan has spina bifida, a birth defect resulting in spinal cord problems


Logan (pictured), who has spina bifida, was gifted an incredible birthday party of his own when he turned seven, with radio station FOX FM organising Transformers, celebrities and jumping castles for the young boy

‘I only had my daughter Giselle then [she now has three-month-old Florence too] and I just kept thinking “Imagine if that was my child feeling left out? How would she feel?”,’ she told FEMAIL.

‘It was really sad for his mother as well. So I reached out to my contacts in mother’s groups on Facebook and put together a party for kids in our area. There were 350 people there.

‘We doubled that number last year and hope to reach more than 1,000 people this time around.’

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disability support guide we rock the spectrum preston

Australia’s first sensory safe, indoor play gym opens – Disability Support Guide

Australia’s first open to the public, indoor play gym for children with sensory disorders has officially opened its doors in Preston, Melbourne.

For brother-sister business partners and Australian Master Franchisees Sally and Mark Johnson, the opening spelled the beginning of a dream come true.

Drawing inspiration from its installations around the world, We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gyms are a network of sensory safe indoor play spaces, founded by American parent Dina Kimmel.

But now, the gym is on home soil.

Featuring 10 pieces of occupational therapist designed equipment to aid in the physical development of participants, the environment is safe and able to keep children with sensory disorders such as autism, sensory processing disorder and ADHD feel regulated and engaged.

“As well as being a place for play, we will soon be introducing classes and therapy programs into our Preston gym and have office spaces for allied health professionals to consult from the gym.”

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We Rock the Spectrum – Australia’s newest all abilities gym for kids – Bubs On The Move

Taking your kids to the park or a play centre poses challenges for many families that others are unaware of. One of my own children struggled with loud noises until he was four. A loud speaker, party whistle, even a busker would make him anxious so we modified where we went and what we did in those first years. Anxiety is something parents of kids who struggle with social skills often experience taking their kids to a playground. I once had a single dad as a patient tell me that he had stopped taking his son with autism to the local playground because any time he went another parent would pick a fight with him about his son’s challenging behaviour. I wish We Rock the Spectrum had been around then because I’m sure it would have become his safe haven.

We Rock the Spectrum is an all abilities children gym that opened this weekend in Melbourne (Preston).  The gym is a safe and fun place space for ALL children.   As we enter We Rock the Spectrum the first thing I notice is a sign that says “Finally a place where you don’t have to say I’m sorry”.  A really simple statement I know, but one that will bring a sigh of relief to parents of special needs kids.  The gym is suitable for children from babies to kids aged 12.    The brilliance of We Rock the Spectrum hinges on a a few key features – overt inclusion of children and families who have kids with special needs, a high children to helper ration – there are many appropriately trained adult staff on hand to assist children use the gym equipment (designed with occupational therapy input) and support parents if challenging behaviours occur.  The presence of a quiet room is a bonus.  Children prone to sensory overstimulation can retreat to a quiet space with low lighting when needed.

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sally johnson and her son digby at we rock the spectrum autism friendly gym

Subtle changes make all the difference at play gym designed for children with autism – ABC News AU

Digby, now 7, is on the autism spectrum and finds it hard to deal with the sensory overload he experiences in many public spaces.

“I started to retreat from the community, which was lonely for us but also for him,” Ms Johnson said.

“It was a very difficult time for me because I’m very social.

I thought [parenting] would be much different than it turned out to be, especially in the early days.

Ms Johnson used to dream of a place where her eldest child was understood and where he felt comfortable enough to socialise and play with his younger sister Clementine.

But with no indoor play centres catering to children with autism in Melbourne she had to take things into her own hands.

Together with her brother Marcus, Ms Johnson has just opened Australia’s first indoor play centre designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum.

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boy riding zip line indoor play gym

Mum of boy with autism launches Australia’s first indoor play gym – Brinkwire

Welcome to Australia’s first indoor play gym for autistic children – a place where kids like Digby are encouraged to just be themselves.

The gym comes equipped with a zip line for the little ones, plenty of play things and swing sets, all specially designed by occupational therapists.

There’s space for psychologists and speech pathologists, and a “calming room” if kids need a break.

“We wanted to create more of a family feeling, like going to a friend’s place to play.”

It’s all the work of Digby’s mum Sally Johnson.

“When my son was two or three, we were just finding it was more and more isolating not being able to take him to playgrounds because of sensory input issues and other people’s perceptions of his unusual behaviour at times,” the Thornbury mum said.

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gym owner and son in kids gym

Haven for fun and inclusion – Herald Sun

When Sally Johnson’s son Digby was diagnosed with autism and ADHD at age two, she was at a loss to find a safe and welcoming place for him to play.

She longed for an affordable, inclusive venue where he could play freely on suitable equipment, and where she could meet families facing similar challenges.

“Digby was severely delayed in many areas of development,” Ms Johnson said.

“In some ways it was a kinder entry into autism. We realised pretty quickly that he wasn’t developing typically.”

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Australia's first purpose-built gym for autistic children

Australia’s first purpose-built gym for autistic children – 9 News

With a zip line for the kids, plenty of play things and swing sets, step inside Australia’s first indoor play gym for autistic children. All of the equipment has been specially designed by occupational therapists. There’s a Calming Room and facilities for psychologists and speech pathologists. It’s the work of Sally Johnson, whose son, Digby, is autistic.

Watch the segment below!