Glendale 'We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym' helps special needs children play, socialize

GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- Deborah Portnoy and Michael Cohen have over 25 years between them working with special needs populations. Their 14-year-old son, Harry, is autistic, as well.

So, they welcomed the opportunity to open We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym, a so-called sensory gym that accommodates all children, but particularly those with special needs.

"When we heard about this opportunity we jumped at the chance to create something that would utilize both of our professional skills and then what we knew personally," said Deborah Portnoy, co-owner of the facility.

"It helps ones with autism be a little more, just be exposed to more social situations that they wouldn't otherwise," said Cohen.

"Not just kids with autism, kids with ADHD and OCD and specific learning disabilities," said Portnoy.

Experts tell us that the more children play the more they have the necessary skills to engage, but first they have to feel included. Places like this offer the sensory skills needed to do just that.

"We provide things that help all the senses so, vestibular is movement, proprioception is feeling your body. Seeing, sights, we have musical instruments," said Portnoy.

Music, art and lots of physical exercise using specialized equipment is their method.

Six-year-old Chloe Chiaramonte walks to the gym with her dad then spends time in special swings.

Kiersten Mikelas of Glendale brings her son to help with sensory issues.

"Because he has a language issue one of the challenges for him is socializing. So, kids his age aren't very patient," said Mikelas.

But he is learning to find his way here.

It cost $10 a day to play in the gym with parental help and $10 an hour for drop-off services, for up to 3 hours. A nice offering for parents who need some time away.

But Portnoy and Cohen remind us that all kids can benefit from a place like this.

"Even though we do have the equipment and provide classes and therapies for our special needs community, it's cool enough that all kids want to be here and who doesn't want to zip line and jump and swing," said Portnoy.

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