By Matt Boniface
According to the CDC, 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum. This is up from 1 in 150 in the year 2000 (www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html). The prevalence of this disorder has affected millions of households and parents are looking for safe environments for their children. An independently owned and operated gym called We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym has been established in the local area by Michelle Kapusta, “After seeing We Rock the Spectrum in Largo, I knew Tampa needed one.”
“I have three children and one is on the spectrum…most of our employees have children on the spectrum so we have a lot of experience,” Kapusta explained. In addition to direct experience with children on the autism spectrum, the cooperation trains Kapusta and her employees. These trainings are designed by Occupational Therapists specifically for children on the spectrum.
Catering mainly to children from infant to 13 years, they still welcome teens and young adults interested in coming to play and can find a time bestsuited for them by calling in advance. Children not on the spectrum are also welcomed to attend and play. Kapusta noted, “We are a full inclusion, sensory gym for children of all abilities.” They do require that a parent or guardian remains on site at all times as they are not a licensed daycare.
Their grand opening, on January 7 of this year, was filled with wonder as children were greeted with storm troopers from Tampa’s 501st Legion and Anna from the movie Frozen.
Kapusta expressed how she’d recently hosted a birthday party for a 9 year old boy who’d never experienced one before because he’d been asked to leave from other, more structured facilities. “If they don’t want structure they shouldn’t be forced into it,” she explained.
It offers many reasonable admission options for families. They offer “Open Play” daily for $12/child + $10/sibling with no specific time limit. Daily passes and memberships are also available. Insurance may only cover an hour each week of occupational therapy so they team up with a non-profit, My Brother Rocks the Spectrum, part of the corporation, which grants families assistance for additional time otherwise not covered. They are also a huge sponsor for “Autism Speaks” and are looking to partner with local schools for field trips and as a general resource.
Kapusta would like to extend her thanks to the support from Ed Buckley and her husband Phil who have helped her bring this dream to fruition.
The Gym is open 7 days a week: Monday to Friday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 Noon-5 p.m.
It is located at 1076 E. Brandon Blvd., Suite 102. www.WeRockTheSpectrumTampa.com or call 571-1600.