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Every-Day-Play Saves The Day

When We Rock the Spectrum Glendale first opened its doors, we had families every day that walked in and found a place they felt happy to have their kids play. They felt safe, and comfortable in our clean, creative, and super fun space. Families with kids of all different ages could find something to do in the gym. Moms of little ones with and without special needs found our gym’s swings, trampoline, monkey bars and especially the zip line more enjoyable than any other indoor play space they had ever been. We heard everyday that our We Rock in Glendale CA was a cool and an awesome place to play.

We love being a gym for ALL kids, but it is especially gratifying when our kids with Sensory Processing Disorder  use our equipment in a purposeful way and benefit from it developmentally. Having been open two and half years now, we have seen some significant progress with many of our customers who frequent the gym. One such little boy has had a profound impact on me. His unique and appropriate name is Lyric. The word is defined as “expresses deep personal feelings in a way that is like a song”, and anyone who has been in our gym on a weekday afternoon has experienced all that is Lyric.

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His single, working mom found our gym to be the perfect solution for her son after preschool to help him “get out” some of his extra energy. He was diagnosed on the autism spectrum but like the saying goes, if you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism”. Well working in the field of special needs for almost 25 years, I have met a lot of children on the spectrum but none like Lyric.

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My heart went out to him immediately. In some ways he reminded me of my own son 10 years ago, but Lyric quickly gained skills that my son still has not. His progress was so significant many have commented that they can’t believe he is the same child as two years ago. His Regional Center service coordinator held his annual IPP, (Individualized Personal Plan) in our gym and she was extremely impressed saying she would definitely be recommending our gym to other families on her case load.

When Lyric first came in to play at We Rock The Spectrum Glendale, he hardly spoke, and when he did, it was usually repeating something he had heard someone else say. He had classic “Echolalia” and he mostly ran around the gym not sure what to do, playing with whatever caught his attention as he whizzed by, but only for a moment before he was on to the next thing. He didn’t listen well or follow directions. He never looked us in the eye and had an extremely hard time sitting still to eat a snack. Last fall he celebrated his 5th birthday with us at the gym.

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He had been relentlessly asking his mom everyday she picked him up, to buy him the mermaid role play costume. Sure enough on the day of his party his wish came true! Together we celebrated Lyric in all his glory!

his birthday cake

Lyric now loves everything in the gym, and we just adore having him there! He uses all of the equipment, toys, instruments, books, art supplies, as well as plays creativiley with dress up and our puppet theatre. He has made friends and welcomes customers when they enter the gym. He has conversations, back and forth and although he still repeats some, it has turned into quite a comedy routine as he can imitate character voices perfectly. If not looking at him, I would swear he was a child from the UK when I hear him talking as Peppa Pig. He may have quite a career some day in entertainment, but if not, one thing I know for sure about Lyric is his potential is limitless! He not only now sits to eat his snack but also participates in making it; peeling his own oranges, opening packages and cutting up some of his own food. He has learned to share and take turns, both which were extremely hard for this only child with autism and rigidity. He participates in dance, martial arts, music class, and more as he is always up for trying something new.

wave drum with friend swingreading with mike music

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Lyric is the one in the bumble bee costume
Lyric is the one in the bumble bee costume

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He will be going off to Kindergarten next week and we are excited for what the year has in store for little Lyric. One thing is for sure. His mom has made certain he has gotten what he needed to be as best prepared as he can be as he enters elementary school. We are proud to know We Rock The Spectrum Glendale has been an important part of Lyric’s success!

Rock on Lyric, keep writing your own inspirational song !!!

me and lyric

 

Harry’s Heart and Humor – Part 4 – Don’t Take Education for Granted

Once I learned that my  son wanted to communicate with me more but that in his words he, “best hears usually in the morning”,  I had to shift and not wait until after school or days end to ask my “ grand awesome questions”.  He let me know via typing that he thinks listening to Opera music is “an end to a nice day”, and he revealed he is, “targeting all  focus on acing circus of communication”!

Over the next 6 months he continued his weekly sessions with Katie. I was surprised to learn he knew that the color crimson was red, and that Richard Nixon was president in 1972. He was like a sponge absorbing so much new information and illuminating to us a great deal of what he already understood. Katie brought in different lessons each week, but Harry expressed that he was “longing to do the great wall” and that he wanted her to “add china under every lesson I have lots to learn”.

In the fall of 2015, my dad had become ill and it was decided that in order for him to live past his 87th birthday, that he needed to have heart surgery. The idea of this was terrifying but I trusted the doctors and set out to make plans to travel to Boston where he would be operated on at the beginning of November. Harry was very close with his Papa, we visited Massachusetts 1-2 times a year and most years my parents made a trip out to California to spend quality time with us. I was extremely conflicted because I had never gone anywhere without Harry. I did not see how I could make this trip in which many hours would be spent in a hospital, be there to support my mom, and still take care of all of Harry’s special needs. After much turmoil I decided to leave Harry in California with detailed instructions for the male “dream team” consisting of his Dad, Step-Dad, and our trusted Adaptive Skills Instructor, Earnest.

In his Speech session with Katie, before I left Harry spelled out “i talk at last about growing up”. Katie asked what he would like to say about that and Harry spelled, “time to listen to mom and know I am getting to independent harry time”. When asked what he wanted to do with the guys while mom was gone, Harry spelled “eat red meat”! I thought this answer was hilarious, and after we all had a good chuckle, at the end of the session Katie asked Harry what he wanted to be for Halloween and he spelled, “ I elect myself to be leader of usa”!

A week later I had gone to Boston and returned to LA with a heavy heart and my dad still in the hospital but on the road to recovery. In the next session with Katie Harry typed, “week was not so hopeless”. He had so much energy in his body during this session; I wished we were back working on typing at We Rock The Spectrum Glendale where he could jump on the trampoline or zip line and crash to regulate his body. Katie asked what was going on and he typed “molecules noisy”. Katie asked him more specifically what he meant and he typed “omg im so escalating into excitement”! Katie questioned, “Is that a good thing or bad thing? “ and he typed, ” know living noisy isnt steady “. We were recognizing these times where Harry could barely sit still  while trying to type, as those moments when he had something important and personal to communicate. Many people get uncomfortable revealing something personal, and I was incredibly moved and proud of Harry’s efforts to share his thoughts.

My dad took a turn for the worse soon after I had returned to LA. He went into cardiac arrest for over 10 minutes. They were able to revive him but he remained in a coma, on a respirator and unresponsive. Despite my best efforts to hide it, Harry knew I was extremely sad and stressed. One day before he left for an overnight at his dad’s house, I asked if he had anything he wanted to say and I presented him the letter board. He spelled “stay open”. I asked what he meant and he continued, “about papa”. He left and I balled my eyes out. I decided not to return to MA before he was taken off life support, but to hold on to my last memory of my dad alive, sitting up in his hospital chair kissing me goodbye. I waited to get the call of his passing while I helplessly used up nervous energy rearranging furniture in my house. I told my kids that they would not be seeing their papa again and that we needed to prepare to go to Massachusetts soon for a funeral. I asked Harry if Nana wanted to come back to California with us so she wouldn’t have to be alone, would he be willing to give up his room for a while and he spelled, “ yes at least im helping her”. For those of you that don’t know anything about autism, one very common characteristic is interest in routine comforts and sameness. I knew changing his room to be a huge unselfish gesture by my teenage son and I was humbled. In speech that week with Katie he typed that he wanted to learn about “inventions for illness treatment”. She read to him from a book about game changing medical advances and he was fascinated. At the end for his last thought he typed, “don’t take education for granted”!

My dad died on December 9th 2015. In the three weeks I was in Massachusetts following his funeral Harry refused to type with me. When I presented him with a letter board or ipad, he either refused or simply spelled out “ no” or “move”. I asked him one day for just one different word about how he was feeling since we got to Massachusetts and he spelled, “peace”.

We returned to California with my mom just before New Years 2016. When school started back up, I brought her with me to Harry’s speech session with Katie 1/8/16.

All of his typing on this day was on the ipad.

Katie: “What do you want to work on?”

Harry: “know i am rusty”

Katie: “ It’s ok. What do you want to warm up with? We can do mountains or inventions…”

Harry: “ introvert”

Katie: “Who is “?

Harry: “me”

Katie: “ What’s another word for introvert”?

Harry: “sadness makes language or communication go inside”.

Katie: “Well you normally are a pretty outgoing guy, do you mean you became introverted in Massachusetts temporarily?”

Harry: “true”

Katie: “how is it being back now in LA”?

Harry: “painful to loose grandfather angry”.

Katie; “Is there something in particular you are angry about“?

Harry; “life is short”.

The above was the longest fluid exchange of a conversation that I had ever witnessed Harry engaged in his entire life. It took approximately 40 minutes with Katie’s extremely patient pauses and encouraging words motivating him all along the way. Harry used his index finger, scanned the keyboard with his faulty eyes, and with his motor planning challenges, he laboriously pointed out each letter one by one. At the end as she usually does she asked him if he had any last thoughts and he typed,

“ i am unifying my families grief”

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Thanksgiving, 2002
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August, 2007
Last family vacation, 2013
Last family vacation, 2013
Family visit December 2014
Visiting Massachusetts December, 2014
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Retirement Party August, 2015                                           Children and Grandchildren Celebrating

This piece is written in loving memory of Dr. Bernard Portnoy. He would be so proud of Harry’s Heart and Humor. My dad’s wise words ring on in his grandson, “ don’t take education for granted”. Dr. Portnoy retired as a pediatrician on his 87th birthday.                   To read more about his life click here.

 

To The Moon and Back…

To he Moon and Back Players  is a performing arts program designed to support creative expression. We do that through movement, song, rhythm, words, notes, really the sky is the limit, to the moon! The name of this company was inspired not only by the sentiment of infinite potential, but by the wonderful children’s story I used to read to my kids by Sam McBratney, “Guess How Much I love You“.. It’s about a father rabbit, Big Nutbrown Hare who is challenged by his son, Little Nutbrown Hare, to one up him as he describes how much love he feels; down the lane, to the river and beyond all the way the way to the moon , and even further than that… and back”. The name hopes to inspire the unbounded potential of the creative spirit, and how our kids on the spectrum or not have talents that should be celebrated in every way possible. Sometimes when one doesn’t have the words they can dance a feeling or burst out into song. When someone struggles to deal with emotions they may turn to laughter and in that way become incredibly relatable to anyone else needing relief. So the name of our company represents endless possibilities.

When I was a child I loved acting. I always wanted to do plays or be on stage singing and dancing. I felt tons of energy and enthusiasm when inspired and I wanted to shine! As the years passed so did my love of theatre and performing. My childhood passion eventually landed me in Hollywood in the early 1990’s. I knew LA was not a “theatre town” like New York but I had been going to school in Ohio for 4 years so it was only natural to keep moving West! No one moves East right?

Life in LA for a young starving artist was not easy. I put my psychology degree on a shelf, got into a reputable acting class so I could find my tribe, and started the revolving door of obligatory jobs waiting tables and catering as to always be available for the audition! It did not take more than a couple of years of 99 seat Black Box Theatre with some of the most talented men and women I had ever met to recognize that ability did not equate with financial success in the industry. I did a few bit TV jobs and then got a speaking role in a feature which landed me my SAG card. That was it I thought, I was on my way, and still in my mid 20’s so not quite out of my prime yet by Hollywood standards. I was fit and in shape, but waiting tables was beginning to take its toll on my athlete’s knees, and the charm had long worn out of using it as an opportunity to develop accents and characters. A friend introduced me to a company that was supporting disabled adults to learn Independent Living Skills, ILS, such as Laundry, banking, grocery shopping, cleaning etc. I could do that I thought, and since I did have a college degree in psychology, I should be well prepared. So in 1993, I set out  on my first day to meet my first client. I could have never known at the time what a profound effect making that choice would have on the rest of my life.

I grew to love the work of supporting an individual to his or her greatest potential. In time I was able to merge my love of theatre and working with this special population. I created a performing arts program at Tierra Del Sol, got married and had two children. When my son was diagnosed with Autism in 2003, despite a decade of experience, I felt ill prepared, overwhelmed and completely frightened about his future. Leaving the performing arts program I had created at Tierra was an incredibly difficult decision for me but one I knew I had to make to do what was needed for my son. Over the years, submerged in autism,  I focused on interventions to support his language, social development, behavior, sensory and health related challenges. I tried to stay connected to my creative self but I needed to find new outlets. I wrote, directed and Co Produced a Multimedia Theatrical Production about autism, tilted Mothers and Others on Autism. I was awarded a Community Service Grant and created a children’s play to dispel the biggest myths about the spectrum titled, The Autism Education Project. I created a TV show pilot about Neurofeedback, and how it can help kids with autism. I voiced a chapter of an audio book about autism for the Thinking Moms Revolution  and when I could, I lead acting classes, workshops and film camps throughout Los Angeles. Now I have two teenagers and a thriving business supporting and integrating families of kids with autism at  We Rock The Spectrum Glendale.  I have developed To The Moon and Back Players so I can continue inspiring and creating with those who inspire me.

This summer’s workshop will culminate in a live performance at the gym on

Wednesday July 27th at 7:00pm!

Come check us out!

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We Rock for ALL kids

As soon as anybody walks into a We Rock The Spectrum Gym, they quickly find out We Rock is something quite different. It isn’t just another indoor play space, it isn’t quite a gym in the traditional sense, and it also isn’t an Occupational Therapy facility for kids with autism. What we are, is a one of a kind sensory gym developed and designed to be a gym for ALL kids. Our We Rock Gym in Glendale CA  is a cool hang out for kids, teens and parents like us too as we play rockin’ roll music all day long. Nowhere else can you fiddle around on musical instruments, bang a full drum kit to your hearts content, literally climb and draw on the walls, or swing and zip line across the room.

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You can bring in and eat you own food, but we have healthy snacks available for purchase as well. We have cool arts and crafts supplies included with Open Play and during our Rockin’ Summer Camps  we do special projects, games and activities. Most of our equipment holds adult weight so parents and kids can work out side by side on our treadmills, exercise bikes or rowing machines. In addition to all the really fun things to do at We Rock, all our gyms have been specifically designed to help with Sensory Integration .

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Since opening our doors we have been listening to our customers about what they feel is needed in our Glendale community. Culturally we are extremely diverse, as our location serves families in Burbank, Los Feliz, Silverlake, Atwater village, Eagle Rock, Montrose, La Cresenta and beyond. We love learning about different customs when we host birthday parties (link) or special private events in our gym.

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When we first opened, it was important to us that we had a family feel where there was a little something for everyone regardless of age. Our feedback has been affirming that we have accomplished just that. Although the word Spectrum is in the name of our business, many who find their way to our Glendale location do not realize that word is referring to the autism spectrum. When they begin to figure that out, their kids are happily playing and perhaps learning a little bit about acceptance of individual differences. We love the name WE ROCK THE SPECTRUM because we feel it’s important to empower ALL kids. Those on the spectrum may need various therapies along the way to become successful but none of us should ever lose sight of how awesome these kids can be. They all have talents and abilities that should be celebrated as they grow so that they can build confidence and self esteem to make their way in this world. ALL kids need this, siblings of kids on the spectrum especially need a place where they can play and hang with their family without feeling embarrassed, uncomfortable or excluded from any fun.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how long kids have been playing in the gym, 2, 3, 4, or 5 hours!!! When its time to leave they never want to go. Something we hear everyday is, “One more zip line PLEASE, one last time… “

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He Rocks – Harry’s Heart and Humor Part 3

I’m excited to continue to share about the progress my son has made in his communication this past year. Just before his 15th birthday, Harry had been having a fun summer with lots of hiking, swimming, surfing, skateboarding, and of course his newly expressed passion, running! As you can see we have totally supported Harry’s wish to let others know that Autism can be equated to great fitness! He had been continuing to work with Katie, typing and using his letter board, but it seemed no matter how hard I tried to duplicate what she was doing he was not willing or seemingly able to type with me. I was getting frustrated and discouraged and I wasn’t sure how long I could continue to afford to pay for this speech therapy. It was not covered by Harry’s insurance (Medical) and having recently opened a new business with We Rock The Spectrum Glendale. To say there wasn’t a lot of extra money is an understatement. I had been invited by our CEO and founder of We Rock, Dina Kimmel, to hear a special needs attorney speak about what services can be funded by the Los Angeles Unified School District. It was literally like a light bulb went off in my head. I wasted no time bringing her on board to fight for REACH communication Services,  which had given my son a way to show what he knew in school, to be paid for by the district for the upcoming year. It didn’t take long, for Valerie Vanaman  to use her expertise of special education law to prove that my son needed this speech therapy from this company to “access the curriculum”. We not only were awarded payment for the upcoming year, but reimbursement for the past year I had already paid. I could not believe it, I was thrilled and ready to take on the next challenge of getting my son to type with me.
In July 2015, I attended a REACH Communication conference, along with Harry and his step dad Michael. Harry’s therapist Katie was presenting about RPM in one of the break out sessions.

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Harry sat between Michael and me and on the first day of the conference and for the first time, he spelled out answers to my questions.

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We were so excited and proud of how he handled all three days of the conference. It was as though he was amongst “his people” and he felt totally at ease. We were all like sponges that weekend trying to absorb as much information as we possibly could.

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Ever since then, I have been able to get Harry to type and spell out his thoughts with me. A year ago, it was not everyday, or even every time I asked, but his communication was improving. It was still extremely limited but significant. I would take what I could get, often without pushing him for more. At school he continued his weekly sessions and I attended every one, diligently taking notes. The following are some of the highlights from those sessions.
9/8/15
Katie asked what he wanted to do and Harry typed on the ipad, “I can get done hearing about mirrors”.
Katie “Do you have a topic you really like”?
He typed, “great changes fenced china”
Katie did a lesson on the history of The Great Wall of China and Harry answered all of her questions from the reading correctly. She told him he was doing such a great job typing on the ipad and had developed a rhythm. At the end she asked him if he had any final thoughts, or a message to the world and he typed
“Heartened here erased fear”.
9/11/15
Katie asked what he wanted to work on
Harry typed “longing to do the great wall”.
Katie read and then asked, “What is one reason for closing yourself off”?
Harry typed, “control the population”
He seemed kind of distracted and maybe even sad. Katie asked if he was doing ok. He said yes but he did not look like it. His school aide told Katie that they had watched a documentary that morning about the terrorist attacks on 9-11.
Katie asked Harry, “is there anything you want to say about the 9-11 movie”?
Harry typed “its so sad”
He began jumping in his seat and it seemed very hard for him to control his body.
Katie went back to reading about China and he calmed down. At the end she said, “Last question, do you have a final thought? Whatever you want to say, a message to the world”?
Harry typed, “have a heart”
9/18/15
Katie asked, “What do you want to talk about”?
Harry typed ” china”
She read from a book on China and he answered questions by pointing to letters on the stencil board. One question from the reading was a vocabulary word she asked him if he knew what it meant to be homely.
Harry typed, “essence needs hugs”
Katie read him a definition of homely from a dictionary then asked him, “what do you think about that”?
Harry typed “not electric” then he got up and asked to take a little break. We were beginning to notice that when harry was asked something he didn’t really know he got very anxious and would usually ask for a break or to use the bathroom. After his break he went back to the lesson and answered more questions.
Katie asked him to type out the number 22.
Harry spelled “twenty two”
She told him he could use the number keys and then he accurately identified the numbers 100, 800, and 900.
Katie asked her last question before the timer went off, “what’s a quality of a good leader”?
Harry typed “ruling with purpose “
9/25
Katie was reading a history lesson and asked, “What does revolt mean”?
Harry chose to answer using the letter board rather than the ipad.
We noticed when he has a hard time controlling his body movements, pointing at the small letters on the ipad or query keyboard is difficult for him and he does better using a pencil to point at the large letter board. He tried spelling an answer but got frustrated and quickly grabbed at Katie’s arm. She told him it was ok not to know the answer to the question about the revolt. She said lets start over, from scratch. Do you know what that means”?
Harry spelled, “you start like again”.
Katie asked, “What signal can you use to let others know you have something to say”?
Harry spelled, “let’s have going to communicate “
She asked if there was anything he could do non verbally to indicate he has something to say and he spelled,” saying takes less time”.
Katie asked  him to clarify, “What do you want to say, going to communicate or maybe just communication? Do you want to use one word or  the whole phrase”? He spelled, “Not word use phrase”
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I went into this session to ask Katie for help because for the past month, most times I asked Harry to communicate with me he was refusing. He would type “no” or “move” but I wasn’t getting much more since he had started back to school.
Katie started the session by asking Harry “How is typing going with mom”?
Harry typed on the ipad “eta”
Katie asked, “What does eta mean”?
Harry typed “estimated time of arrival has learned
that youth hears moms as asking …”
He got all that out then asked to take a break. I was so anxious for him to finish his thought and it was torturous to be patient and wait for him to return from his break. When he did, Katie decided to do some academics with him, which often seemed to help him organize his body to type. We noticed when he was asked anything difficult, including many personal questions, he would have a hard time.  After a few correct answers from the lesson she said, “ now back to mom question”. She asked him to finish his thought, “estimated time of arrival has learned that youth hears mom as asking …”
He continued typing “grand awesome questions at days end best hear usually in the morning”
And then I knew.

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For more information about REACH communication services including this summers workshops and trainings, click here.

He Rocks – Harry’s Heart and Humor Part 2

He Rocks- Harry’s Heart and Humor Part 2

Thanks for coming back to read about what has happened with Harry’s communication since Christy got married. Although REACH has yet to be able to provide a different therapist to work out of We Rock The Spectrum Glendale they were able to offer Katie who was already working one day a week at Harry’s school, Westmorland Academy . Although disappointed Harry would not be having his weekly sessions at the gym, I was grateful for how far he had come in 6 months and desperately wanted to see him progress.  “We’ll take it!” I proclaimed, and I carved out time every week to go to the school and observe what was happening with Harry’s speech therapy.
At this time I think its important to say that Harry has been going to a private school specifically for kids with autism since he was in fourth grade. He has struggled his entire life to learn, pay attention and control his challenging behaviors. Until he began typing, he had never demonstrated that knew how to read. Year after year academic goals were created and never achieved. It was presumed he had a cognitive disability, although his IQ was never measured. How could it be? He had no way of communicating what he knew. The school was beginning to shift his goals more and more to vocational, behavioral and social rather than focusing on his education. I worried about his future. What would he do? What does he want to do? Where will he live? What is he capable of? I had so many questions and I wished that I could ask Harry and that he could participate in making decisions about his future.
Starting with a new therapist or anything new for that matter is always challenging for Harry. Christy and Katie had different ways of working and it took some time for my son to adjust and feel comfortable to start communicating. Eventually Katie was able to create a trust with Harry and she introduced him to an alphabet letter board. She taught him to point to the letters on the board at times when it seemed he was having trouble focusing and typing on the ipad. Like Christy, Katie would read to him and presumed when she asked him a question about the reading that he knew the answer. Soon he began to spell his answers with Katie. She had been trained in RPM Rapid Prompting method and was using some different strategies with Harry. She did not need to touch his arm or any other part of his body to keep him engaged, but rather she would encourage him verbally to stay focused, keep going with his thought and she taught him to “reset” his own body as needed. It’s important to understand that Harry’s autism affects his motor planning. This relates to every aspect of his life from his ability to talk, type, cut his food, button his pants, ride a bike or write his name. Katie was patient. She encouraged Harry by presuming he was competent, capable and she always reminded him that he could do it.
Katie continued to read to Harry longer passages from educational books. He would answer more and more complex questions, first directly about the content, but soon Katie would ask him to answer drawing references to his own life. He was enjoying learning about Ancient China, Early American Presidents and Scientific Inventions when one day at school in his speech session he shared his personal thoughts! His school had participated in a Special Olympics event that morning. Harry had been entered in a throwing and a running event and much to everyone’s surprise and delight he won his race. He ran the fastest and reached the finish line first, but since no one had told him to run right through the ribbon, he touched it then turned around and ran back the other way. When encouraged to go back to the finish line, he turned around and ran right back and UNDER the ribbon! Still managing to claim first!

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When Harry returned to school he was so excited from winning and everyone giving him high fives and congratulations on his blue ribbon. Harry sat in speech therapy with Katie and for the first time that day instead of typing about his lesson he typed out letter by letter what was on his mind, the race! The photo below is of his actual saved session on the ipad. It took him about 45 minutes to completely type out this thought.

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One year later thanks to Harry finding his voice, he has just participated in his first official Special Olympics representing Glendale California, and was able to take home even more medals and ribbons.

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We are thrilled to share Harry’s progress with all our customers at We Rock, especially families who struggle with a non verbal or partially verbal loved one. I can not recommend enough  introducing your child to the ipad for communication. So when you come into We Rock The Spectrum Glendale next time, if Harry happens to be there, let him know you read about his progress in my Blog. I will share what Harry has typed from his heart and how we discovered his sense of humor. I invite you to get to know Harry’s Heart and Humor.

He Rocks – Harry’s Heart and Humor Part 1

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One of my main motivations for opening We Rock The Spectrum Glendale  was to provide a place for my own growing son with autism  to play and hang out after school. I knew he loved to jump, crash and swing and I had seen over the years how the more he was provided opportunities to do all those things, the more he seemed to be present and able to learn from the world around him. When he didn’t get his “energy out” or “sensory needs met”, he would be in constant motion jumping on beds, spinning in the living room and pacing the hallways. He also was always burying himself under things or trying to wedge his body in tight spaces. When designing our Glendale gym for those with Sensory Processing Disorder SPD. I knew we were going to build an extra room in the space and that it would have many purposes. We would provide therapies, group or private classes, musical exploration and a place to be quite and away from the intensity in the gym.
Within a month of opening we were providing a space for Social Skills, Music Therapy and for me the biggest prize was luring a well sought after Speech Therapy Company REACH (Resource for Education, Advocacy, Communication and Housing) to our Gym in Glendale to help explore if Harry could learn to use typing as way to communicate. At the time he was 13 years old, and had been in speech therapy for 10 years. He spoke in 1-3 word sentences only, about his basic wants and needs.
His Speech Therapist’s name was Christy, and together at times with the head of the communications department Darlene, they closed themselves in our “quiet room” with Harry and an iPad and proceeded to teach him that he could use pointing to communicate. I was thrilled to be watching the wonderful learning take place week after week. I set him up for the best possibility of success, diligently making sure he had ample opportunity to meet his sensory needs in the gym by jumping, swinging and eating a snack before each session.
At first Harry was taught to use apps that strengthened his pointing finger and he just practiced popping bubbles, swiping stars and doing other fun but functional things on the iPad. Then Christy would read to him a short passage about random subjects. After she would ask Harry direct questions about what she had read and presumed that of course, he knew the answer, she had just read it to him. This idea of “presume competence”  was not new to us, but Harry’ s growing confidence and ability to respond was. She encouraged him to type his answers on the iPad in full sentences, something he’s never been able to do verbally. She read to him about frogs, The Beatles, and Gandhi. Right from the start he was able to accurately reply by spelling out his answers. He was “facilitated” by a slight support on his right shoulder, to remind his right hand that it was supposed to be doing something. I was amazed at how long Harry was sitting and paying attention and not getting frustrated at what he was doing with Christy.
As Harry began to answer questions with Christy on a weekly basis, I noticed he seemed to need less time regulating in the gym before his sessions. He was sitting longer and attending for the entire 50 minutes, sometimes without a break. I loved what I was seeing, and we were renting the room in our gym before and after his session, so other families were coming to work with Christy and communicate by typing. Summer turned into fall and I felt so encouraged by his progress. Then it happened, the news that Christy would be getting married and moving away. Joyous for her but devastating for us was the all too familiar loss of a valued therapist. The worst news came when Darlene informed us that REACH did not have any speech therapists available to continue working at the gym. I was determined at this point to do whatever it took to keep this new-found communication going for my son.
IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT HOW HARRY LEARNED TO EXPRESS HIS HEART AND HUMOR, PLEASE SHARE THIS BLOG, and take a moment to follow our We Rock The Spectrum Glendale Face Book Page
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A Kids Gym In Glendale – It’s Never too Late for Learning While Having Fun

So here is my first BLOG ever! I love to write but am intimidated by my own typos. I have dyslexia. Not to make excuses but to let you know I share some of the same struggles as those we serve in our Sensory Gym. So please excuse yna mipsellinsg (any misspellings), because sometimes my eye won’t catch the error that is so obvious to everyone else. When I can hire a personal editor, I will be all set. My first grade teacher actually said something like that to my parents when I was struggling to learn to read. She said it wouldn’t much matter because I was going to one-day run the country and would have a secretary. Looking back on that experience I think wow, that teacher was awesome! She really made me feel good about how I was different at a time when all I wanted was to fit in. I eventually did learn to read, in 3rd grade, but I truly believe it is never too late to learn.

It’s coming up on two years since opening We Rock the Spectrum Glendale. I am having so much fun and I cannot believe the amount of learning that has been happening. Firstly I’m learning how to run a business. I’m trying to understand all about social media and marketing and I’ve learned I’m not nearly as technologically proficient as my teenage daughter. I’m learning how to combine a husband as a business’ partner, and how to be part of a larger family in our WRTS Franchise nation wide! I’m learning how to juggle parenting teens and working, always aware of how they are growing physically, socially, emotionally as well as academically. My daughter learned to drive and my son who has autism learned how to communicate via typing and now can share his thoughts and feelings after 12 years of being trapped in a body that does not cooperate. I have had so much fun with our regular after school kids, It has been incredibly rewarding learning to work with a boy who first came into the gym at 3 years old not talking or playing, and who now at 5 converses, interacts creatively and plays socially. I have welcomed new children being born to customers whose bellies grew right before my eyes in this gym, and I’ve watched kids learn to crawl and walk while swinging and jumping and playing at We Rock.

To say there have been many gifts of learning since opening this Kid’s gym is an understatement so I will use these BLOGS to detail and celebrate it all. I feel grateful having worked within the systems of special education and Regional Centers serving disabled kids and adults for over 20 years, so that I can now share what resources I have with others and point them in a direction of help and hope. We do ROCK the Spectrum in here Glendale so come play and learn with us daily!

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