“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.
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:
WHAT IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER?
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
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
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.
“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.
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
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:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also offers a long list of free educational material for families:
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:
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.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
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…”