FEATURED STORY

Dina Kimmel, CEO and founder of We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym, is pictured with her son, Gabriel.

“Give our kiddos a chance. They will teach you a new life.” 

~ Dina kimmel

 


Dina Kimmel is the dedicated mother behind the We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym, a place that gives children with autism a fun and safe place to learn and explore.

We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym opened its first location in Tarzana, California in 2010.

Kimmel got the idea after her son with autism, Gabriel, would get turned away from traditional indoor playgrounds. Those playgrounds just couldn’t provide the right sensory experience, and Gabriel would often suffer meltdowns and leave in tears.

In just a few years, We Rock The Spectrum has grown from a single gym in Kimmel’s home to a global chain with more than 60 locations.

Kelly Mumme recently caught up with Kimmel at the founding location in Tarzana, California. Hit “Play” to watch Kelly’s report:


Like this video? Subscribe to Vital Updates on YouTube>>> 

WHAT IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that is often first detected in early childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. Autism affects how a person communicates, socializes and understands social and emotional cues. Often, children with autism have repetitive behaviors, slow development of speech, as well as unique strengths and weaknesses.

Lance Neilson posted this picture of his son in the Autism Spectrum Flickr group. Credit: Lance Neilson/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

There is no one cause of autism; rather, there is research that points to various combinations of genetic and environmental influences that may cause autism.

There are many types of autism that fall on a “spectrum” which reflects the wide variety of challenges and strengths a person with autism may have. For instance, Asperger’s syndrome, which was previously considered not to be on the spectrum, is a form of high-functioning autism. People with Asperger’s display difficulty with social interactions, have a restricted range of interests and may also have repetitive behaviors.  People with low-functioning autism display the most severe symptoms of autism, such as extensive language impairment. 

Loud noises, unfamiliar or frustrating situations, or something out of their ordinary routine may trigger someone with autism to act out.

FAST FACTS ABOUT AUTISM

  • The puzzle ribbon has been the symbol for autism awareness since 1999. The puzzle pieces are meant to demonstrate the complexity of the autism spectrum.

    Signs of autism often appear before the age of three.

  • There are no medical tests, such as a blood test, to diagnose autism. Rather, doctors monitor a child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
  • Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States.
  • While people with autism may struggle with understanding social cues, they are often strong visual and auditory learners. They can also excel in math, science, music and art.
  • Forty-six percent of children with autism have an above average intelligence.
  • Some medical and health issues often accompany autism, such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.

AUTISM MYTHS BUSTED

There is no proven cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder, but early intervention treatment has been shown to help improve children’s development. However, there are a lot of autism myths and treatments that are quite misguided.

Myth: Autism Can Be Cured

Some parents of autistic children believe that certain diet changes, medicine or behavioral treatment can cure autism, but there is no cure. However, there are some treatments, which are prescribed on an individual basis by doctors, that can help children with autism.

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a form of therapy for children with autism. Credit: BACA Autism/YouTube

“We do know that with early intervention with younger children and Applied Behavioral Analysis, we can improve a child’s functioning,” Dr. Bob Marion, Director of Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York told ABC News.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a form of therapy for children recently diagnosed with autism. By breaking down desirable behaviors into steps and rewarding the child for completing each step, ABA teaches and enforces behavioral development.

Marion explains that although behaviors such as eye contact, social interactions and the development of language can improve, it won’t change the underlying biological disorder.

“And that is definitely not a cure,” Marion said.

See other common myths about autism

AUTISM BY THE NUMBERS

  • 3.5 million Americans
  • 1 in 68 children
  • 4.5 times more likely in boys
  • U.S. program costs: $236+ billion
  • $60k annual cost for families

RESOURCES

The Autism Society has a ton of free resources to help educate families about the autism spectrum. Their “Living With Autism” series has more than a dozen topics ranging from parental support to school transitions:

Read the “Living With Autism” series



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also offers a long list of free educational material for families:

See the CDC publications here


 

The Autism Speaks organization has a tool that lets you search by state and zip code to find resources near where you live. You can also find events to participate in to raise awareness:

Search for resources in your state


 

We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym has more than 60 locations worldwide. Its mission is to provide a safe and fun learning environment for children across the autism spectrum.

Find a gym location near you

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Credit: CDC

The CDC has a great section online where you can read personal stories from people impacted by autism. Here’s an excerpt from Mary Elizabeth’s story:

“Our personal journey into this world of autism began just over eight years ago with the birth of our son, Perry. Since the beginning, he struggled immensely. The first thing we noticed was that he seemed very restless. He was always unsettled. He had a lack of recognition in his eye. He didn’t eat. He didn’t sleep. As each day passed, we recognized more ‘red flag’ characteristics of autism with repetitive behaviors, speech/sound delays and more…” 

Read Mary Elizabeth’s full story

THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

RECENT NEWS ABOUT AUTISM

Tapeworm Therapy Helps Boy With Autism

After consuming tapeworms under the supervision of an American physician, a four-year-old boy with autism saw improvements in his behavior and cognitive functioning.

Virtual Reality May Soon Help Autistic Children in Classrooms

Virtual reality is being examined as a possible teaching aid for the classroom because it can provide a way for those with autism to cope with being in stressful situations.

New Startup Teaches Autistic People How to Code

This is an incredible opportunity for people with autism who could make great coders and engineers due to their intrinsic attention to details and fascination with repetitive tasks.

Study Finds No Link Between Antidepressants and Autism

Researchers found no direct link between antidepressant usage and autism risk during pregnancy, but there may be risk implications associated with a mother's mental health.

FDA Issues Warning About Bogus Autism ‘Therapies’

Many of the so-called therapies for 'curing' autism are dangerous and misinformed, warns the FDA in a recent consumer alert.

‘Sesame Street’ Welcomes First Muppet With Autism

The lovable Muppets living on "Sesame Street" have welcomed Julia, a character with autism, to the neighborhood.