All posts by Wrts Preston

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.”

Read More Here

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!

Who is Rock Boy?

Rock Boy—he’s the mascot of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym who’s come to symbolize fun and full-inclusion to families all over the world. He adorns every We Rock the Spectrum signage from the storefronts to the walls of our gyms. For kids, his bright red t-shirt, welcoming smile, and rockin’ hands means “It’s playtime!” Rock Boy is every child. But the idea for Rock Boy goes back to one child in particular, back when We Rock the Spectrum was just one gym in Southern California that one loving, warrior mother built for her son.

The concept of Rock Boy, like much of We Rock the Spectrum, comes from a love of family. Rock Boy is modeled after Gabriel Kimmel, the son of our CEO & Founder Dina Kimmel. He is also the inspiration behind We Rock the Spectrum, which grew from a home gym designed just for him.

People often wonder why the name of our gym is “We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym,” with a singular Kid instead of plural. That’s because We Rock the Spectrum was never meant to be the worldwide phenomenon that it’s become today. Back when We Rock the Spectrum first opened in September of 2010, it was solely meant for Gabriel to have a safe space to play and be himself without Dina having to apologize. But interest in the gym grew substantially and Dina realized that there were families out there just like her’s that needed this void filled. Because the need for an inclusive space was so apparent, Dina knew she had to open up more gyms and thus, a franchise was born.

Dina Kimmel and Gabriel

Gabriel was diagnosed with Autism at 2 and a half years old. Before the idea of a indoor play gym even occurred in their minds, Dina and her husband Tim looked at each other and said, “What are we going to do?”

Dina’s husband Tim Kimmel works as a sound supervisor for television and movies. Among his most notable works is as the Supervising Sound Editor on the television series Game of Thrones. The two met in the early 2000s at a concert through a mutual friend. Tim was in a rock band at the time and the two quickly bonded over their love for all genres of music. (Fun story: the band that they saw that fateful day ended up playing at their wedding!) Naturally, for the Kimmels, music was a fundamental part of their lives. So together, when the couple was faced with a diagnosis of Autism for their son, in true Kimmel fashion, Dina and Tim said “We’re going to rock the spectrum!”

Dina and Tim Kimmel

Tim Kimmel in his rocker days.

Growing up, the Kimmel children, Gabriel and Sophia had music all around them in the house. Both of them love to sing, dance, and play instruments. For Gabriel who’s on the Spectrum, playing piano helps him tune his fine motor skills and singing and rhythm helps with his stutter.

“When Gabriel engages in music — whether it’s dancing, singing, playing the piano or the clarinet, whatever it may be — his spirit and effervescence shines through so beautifully,” says Dina.
As music constantly filled their lives as children, the image of Rock Boy itself is based on a photo of Gabriel doing the iconic Rock Hands symbol. That photo would later encapsulate everything that We Rock the Spectrum would come to stand for — a child, on the spectrum or otherwise, just having fun.

“That’s how I want every kid to feel when they come into We Rock the Spectrum,” says Dina Kimmel, “like rock stars. Autism doesn’t mean a thing to them. They’re just kids who want to have fun and that’s what we’re all about.”

When Rock Boy was imagined, it was based on Gabriel rockin’ out and being a kid. Today, in capturing that spirit of unabashed freedom and playfulness, the Rock Boy logo has ignited a global movement of inclusiveness that has empowered kids all over the world to let loose and find their inner rock star.

We Rock the Spectrum gym for autistic children set to open in Melbourne – Herald Sun

A franchise of We Rock The Spectrum gyms in the US, the centre is built for children with special needs, with specialised equipment including ziplines, swings and slides.

All equipment is designed by occupational therapists to aid the sensory development of children with processing disorders, and aids motor skill development and sensory processing.

The play centre also has areas for medical practitioners and allied health professionals to work out of, and aims to be a “hub” for families with children with disabilities.

Thornbury mum Sally Johnson will open the gym, which is now under construction, with brother and business partner Marcus, and says the gym will welcome kids of all abilities.

Ms Johnson’s seven-year-old son Digby was diagnosed with autism at age two, and Sally says since then she had struggled to find a place they felt truly included.

“I always wished there was somewhere I didn’t have to be explaining away his behaviour,” she said.

Read full story!

20 Words to Know When Discussing Autism [Vocab]

At We Rock the Spectrum, we serve families from all walks of life. Some are very familiar with the autism community and the language to discuss it, while others are new to it all, and learning. Either way, everyone has to start somewhere, and sharing helpful information about autism spectrum disorder is one of the best ways to spread understanding and awareness. We are the indoor play gym for autism and aim to have autism-friendly kids gyms all around the world.

That’s why we’ve put together our own list of important terms that help to understand autism and many of the medical and therapeutic terms associated with it.

Here’s our list of the 20 must-know words about Autism Spectrum Disorder:


This is the repeating of sounds, words, or phrases. People who “echo” may not always be able to communicate effectively or express their own thoughts, but they parrot back what they have heard. If asked a question, they might repeat the question, and not answer the question.


The repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others, sometimes taken from movies, but also sometimes taken from other sources such as favorite books or something someone else has said. Echolalia is sometimes referred to as scripting.


Repeating or persisting with an action or behavior after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased. To perseverate is to become stuck on something and to not be able to mentally shift gears.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy

Applying the principles used for learning and motivation toward social situations or problems of social significance. Therapists use ABA Therapy to teach communication, play, social, academic, and self-care skills to those with autism.

504 Plan

A plan that ensures a student with any disability, physical or mental, will receive accommodations that will help him or her to achieve academic success.

Individualized education program (I.E.P.)

A plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability will receive specialized instruction and related services so he or she may be educated effectively.


A change from one environment or activity to another. Transitions can be hard for a person with autism. It sometimes helps if warnings are given before a transition.


Often mistaken as temper tantrums, meltdowns are common with people who have autism and are typically not anger-infused. Instead, it is the body’s way of reacting to a confusing or over-stimulating situation. Meltdowns can be loud or they can be very quiet.

Stimulatory behavior (Stimming)

Repetitive behavior, such as the spinning of objects, vocal echoes, or other repetitive actions, that people with autism commonly partake in to alleviate the stressors of overstimulation.

Visual schedule

A visual schedule tells a person what to expect next and in what order. People with autism often benefit by knowing what is next as it may be harder for them to transition from one activity to another.


To leave without permission or without letting others know where you are going, and without processing the dangers/risks involved in leaving. Elopement is a great concern in the autism community.


To have detailed knowledge in a specialized field. A small percentage of people with autism are savants. Savants may have many different skills not specific to one field.

Splinter skill

A skill that is stronger than other skills a person has. A person with autism might be able to do one or more things really well but have far less ability in other areas.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD)

A neurological condition that exists when sensory signals are not adequately processed in order to appropriately respond to the demands of the environment. For example, many people with sensory processing disorder are highly sensitive to fabrics and certain food textures.

Vestibular system

Our vestibular system (or sensory system) gives us a awareness of balance and spatial orientation so we can coordinate our movements. People with autism have a harder time managing their movements, such as their walk and gait.


The simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient. Many things are often comorbid with autism, including epilepsy and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Joint attention

A social-communicative skill that’s developed early and includes pointing, sharing interests and following the eye gaze of others. Most children like to say, “Watch me” to others as they play. They point things out in their environment so they are sure others are seeing what they see. Children with autism often participate in little or no joint attention.


The rhythm and melody of spoken language. Prosody is shown in the rate, pitch, stress, inflection, and intonation used in our speech. People with autism have a harder time with intonation, and can often be more monotone or speak in a singing voice.

Discrete trial

A structured way of teaching in simple steps. A task is broken down and taught in steps and then built back up to the entire task. Discrete trial is used in ABA therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

A type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression. People with autism struggle with anxiety and depression alike. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help reduce these feelings and behaviors associated with them by working to adjust thoughts and perceptions.

With this new knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to help the people in your life who have autism, or a relative with autism. As you may well know from helping a child with autism navigate the world, knowing the words for something you’re experiencing can make a huge difference.

At We Rock the Spectrum, our gym owners create a playground space that speaks the language of autism – but we also speak the language of fun!

Want to be a resource for people with autism and families with autistic children in your community? Contact us about opening your own We Rock the Spectrum franchise.

Gym of inclusion – Preston Leader

Australia’s first purpose-built autism friendly play centre will soon open its doors in Preston.

A franchise of We Rock the Spectrum gyms in the US, the centre will be for children of all abilities, with equipment designed by occupational therapists to aid the sensory development of children with processing disorders.

The centre will also offer areas for health practitioners in an effort to become a “hub” for families with children with disabilities.

Thornbury mum Sally Johnson is opening the gym with brother and business partner, Marcus, and says it will be a place of inclusion.

Read full story!

How Siblings of Children with Autism are Affected

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 Kids Gym. My son Gabriel, who has autism, was receiving therapy from professionals as well as utilizing a indoor play 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 Kids 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 Kids 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 Kids 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 all-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 Kids 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!

7 Ways We Rock the Spectrum Helps Children with ADHD

We created the We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym (WRTS) franchise with a unique purpose: to provide children with autism and other special needs an inclusive play environment they could enjoy with their peers. At WRTS, children are able to take advantage of sensory play equipment in order to grow and develop the skills they will need later in life. Our all-inclusive philosophy allows children of all ability levels to play and grow together.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the many conditions where WRTS can help children overcome challenges. Children with ADHD have trouble focusing and often times act without thinking. ADHD symptoms can range widely. These include:

  • Difficulty paying attention to details and tendency to make careless mistakes in school or other activities which produces work that is often messy and careless
  • Easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli, frequently interrupting ongoing tasks to attend to trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others
  • Inability to sustain attention on tasks or activities
  • Difficulty finishing schoolwork or paperwork or performing tasks that require concentration
  • Frequent shifts from one uncompleted activity to another
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities (for example, missing appointments, forgetting to bring lunch)
  • Failure to complete tasks such as homework or chores
  • Frequent shifts in conversation, not listening to others, not keeping one’s mind on conversations, and not following details or rules of activities in social situations

“Children with ADHD have a hard time self-stimulating,” says Jess Lofland, owner of We Rock the Spectrum ~ Woodland Hills. “This is why the activities inside We Rock the Spectrum are so beneficial to children with ADHD. The safe, stimulating environment gives them what they cannot give themselves – a real focus. The end result is a feeling of capability that will lead to a healthier development.”

We Rock the Spectrum helps children with ADHD in a variety of ways. We’ve listed seven of these below, with an added bonus because we love you ;-)



1. Body Regulation Assistance
WRTS assists children with ADHD by helping them with body regulation assistance from the sensory equipment. The sensory equipment at WRTS is specially designed to aid children in their development. Children with all types of issues are able to positively react and grow from the use of this sensory equipment.

2. Break from School
Having a release from work after school gives these children the release their bodies need in order to focus and regulate themselves. Before starting their homework, a trip to the gym helps children with ADHD better focus later on. With the after school programs held at WRTS, children can come to the gym and enjoy some play time before diving back into their studies.

3. Compliments Occupational Therapy
Our sensory equipment is meant to compliment Occupational Therapy, not replace it. The sensory equipment offers challenges that can be left out from other therapy and helps stimulate a child’s brain and assists them in overcoming ADHD, giving parents an option that can be more beneficial in the long run than medication. The equipment offers a highly stimulating environment where focus is required. This causes the child with ADHD to narrow their focus and work to figure out various pieces of equipment on their own.

4. Social Skills Enhancement
The fourth way WRTS helps children with ADHD is to assist them with their social skills. Many times we see children with ADHD have trouble making friends or keeping them. With our all-inclusive approach and a dynamic staff that carries out our philosophy inside every gym, children are able to learn appropriate behaviors that can aid them in making friends while at the gym. These behaviors frequently extend to the school environment, where an increase in friends is also common.

5. Provides a Community for Children and Parents
WRTS is a community for all kids. Our inclusive approach helps children make friends with their peers and our gym becomes a place where friends can congregate together. The same is true with parents. Parents with children diagnosed with ADHD can often feel aligned or left out (which is the case with many parents whose children have been diagnosed with a disorder) and the team and parents of WRTS make up a fantastic support network of like-minded adults who have the goal of assisting their children.

6. The Comfort of “Fidget Toys”
Many children with ADHD, regardless of the severity, can benefit from having a comfort toy they can hold and maneuver in their hands while at school or at home. This helps them remain calm and focused while feeling secure and allows the skills they learn at WRTS to translate to the school environment. We supply an assortment of these toys in each We Rock the Spectrum for this very reason. The use of “fidget toys” offers the necessary distraction for the body while their minds hone in on what is being asked and instructed.

7. A Focused Approach to Creativity
The Arts and Crafts area of WRTS allows children to have a creative outlet and the ability to decompress while staying focused on the item they are creating. Allowing their hands to work and create while their mind does the guiding aids children with ADHD in their ability to focus, along with giving them a unique and new activity to participate in.

BONUS: The Guidance of the WRTS Staff
When the staff notices a child spending a great deal of time on only one activity they work to persuade them to try other things, which helps their minds continually adapt and experience stimulation from this change in activities. Our staff is always monitoring the activities going on inside the gym and will work with children that need the extra attention to grow. This helps children to be allowed to experience a variety of social interactions and which helps to meet the needs of the children with ADHD.

In conclusion, when children are provided with the stimulation from We Rock the Spectrum that they cannot get themselves, they begin to grow. This positive experience makes them feel able and capable in ways they might not feel in other social situations. A confidence is developed as a routine of success is established, and there is a real improvement in a child’s self-esteem.

Do you have a child with ADHD? What other benefits have you seen We Rock the Spectrum provide?  We’d love to hear from you.  Give us a call at 818-996-6620 or email us at

We Rock the Spectrum is for All Parents!

The team at We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym offers a long list of activities for special needs children to participate in and enjoy with their typically developing peers. This allows parents of special needs children to have a place to take all their children and know they won’t be separated, but instead offered the opportunity to play, grow and develop together. The We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym has a ton of equipment and activities to do with special needs children including sensory-based gym equipment and strength improving equipment as well.

As a result of playing and participating in activities for special needs children offered by We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym, children will be able to improve their attention span, on task behavior, coordination, poster, motor planning, muscle tone, and motor development. This all takes place while the kids are playing and being fully active inside the gym. With a whole list and range of great play equipment to give the staff and parents plenty of activities to do with special needs children and children that are typically developing.

Some of the biggest differences between traditional indoor play gyms and the gym at We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym are the unique style of equipment to use. Most indoor play gyms don’t have the right equipment in place for special needs children. The We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym offers the first gym of its type for children to take advantage of regardless of skill or development level.

The specialized equipment, sensory based toys, arts and crafts area and programs that are set up for kids of all ability levels are designed and perfected to help all children grow and develop, especially children who have special needs. Take a look at what is offered at We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym and find out how they can help your children grow, develop and most of all have fun.