BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. — Throughout the state, many school buildings are closed, and it may be hard to find physical therapy sessions for children who need it.
Adding to that, the winter months are when people tend to stay indoors and may not be as active.
A sensory kids gym, located at 63 Turtle Creek Dr. in Asheville, is focused on children with special needs, and is hoping to help families.
So far, it has changed the life of at least one four-year-old little girl.
“Ivy has something called Wiedemann-Steiner Syndrome, which has given her a genetic difference,” says mom Sara Shea. “And it’s given her hypotonia, which means she’s had delays in terms of building muscles and muscle strength.”
When important places in Ivy’s life started shutting down in March — physical therapy, speech, school, places she’d go to have fun — things really went downhill.
“She would get up every morning get her lunchbox and ask to go to school and want to go see her teachers and her friends,” says Shea. “And it was just everything stopped, you know, cold and for … a four year old that doesn’t understand, she would just bang her head literally … bang her head on the floor.”
Shea is a single mother, and Ivy is her only child. She says Ivy thrives on socialization.
“It’s been really a test of emotional fortitude for parents, and just really confusing, traumatic and confusing for children,” says Shea of the pandemic.
So finding We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym was lifechanging for Ivy, but also for Sara.
She says Ivy asks to come back daily since discovering the gym.
Vanessa Albano opened the gym in the midst of the pandemic, because she knew from personal experience how important it was to have a place for kids to go during this time, especially those with special needs.
“I have five children, the youngest my seven-year-old has a diagnosis of high functioning autism,” says Albano. “And my five-year-old is neurotypical, and I wanted a place where they could go that they can both be comfortable, they could both have fun, that no one felt left out.”
She opened We Rock the Spectrum and her kids love it, too. The gym has a virtual learning center, a calming room, therapy rooms, plenty of sensory equipment — there’s something that meets the need of every child.
For Ivy, Shea has seen improvement in her developing physical skills, muscle strength, balance and coordination — all things she needs to work regularly on with her condition.
“It’s remarkable to find a place that’s really going above and beyond to create a safe environment for special needs kids right now,” says Shea.
The gym is big on social distancing. Only a few kids are allowed in at a time, but they also offer private facility rentals.
In addition, the gym is looking for therapists to rent out its therapy rooms. For more information and to contact the gym, click here