All posts by wrts glendale

We’re Rockin’ Around the Holiday Season

Fall is here and the “Holiday Season” is quickly approaching. I think its safe to say that with them come a variety of emotions. As families gather for special meals, parties and celebrations, this is the time of the year that many with autism may feel especially anxious, particularly those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Here at We Rock the Spectrum Glendale we recognize that and have developed a variety of ways to help families cope with all the unpredictable around the holidays.

This month already, the signs of Halloween are everywhere. Throughout the month we will be adding decorations to the gym to celebrate this tricky holiday. Kids can come in for Open Play and slowly get used to the surrounding changes. We have costumes for sale, which we also feature in our dress up section so kids can get used to trying them on ahead of time. Parents like myself may have already started scouring stores for healthy sweet alternatives, without dyes, or preservatives. I try as hard as I can to stick to organic and non-GMO candies. We must identify within the alluring packaging what has gluten, dairy, nuts or other highly allergic ingredients. We know there is always way too much sugar this time of the year, so at the gym we have only non-edible treats to hand out and strive to help parents avoid having to deal with hyperactivity, sleepless nights, and the inevitable irritability after the sugar crash! We will be celebrating all Halloween weekend and have an after-hours party for teenagers Saturday, October 29th 6-9pm.

For Thanksgiving, we will be closed the day of as we show gratitude with our friends and family. Like many of you, I pray my son has the impulse control to wait for everyone to say what he or she is thankful for before digging in. We will open the gym an hour early on Friday, November 25th and close an hour late to accommodate all the parents who want to shop ‘til they drop at the Americana, Glendale Galleria, or Glendale Ave shopping plaza. With a We Rock Care reservation you can let your kids play in the gym for 2-4 hours while you look for the best bargains. We will also be having a holiday sale in our Rock Shop, so while Christmas carols begin to echo everywhere, you can try and avoid the crowds with your sensitive kid and get some stress free shopping while they play in the gym. On Saturday, December 10th we will have a holiday party with our one of a kind Rockin’ Roll Santa!

During the next few months, as parents of SPD kids, we often will learn how to gracefully turn down parties which may present a huge challenge with scheduling, predictability, consistency, and special diets. When school is out for the holiday season, I wonder daily how I will get through to the New Year and I struggle to fill my son’s days with things that he loves in hopes to avoid a foreseeable meltdown. We Rock the Spectrum – Glendale will be open with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s day, and we will have special programs to keep your kids healthy, active and happy.

I can relate to those who try hard to come up with gifts for our non-verbal kids that don’t play with toys. Trust me a gift of playing in our gym for a couple of hours for some kids is far more valuable than any tangible toy. You may want to think about getting or giving gift certificates to our gym as an option this year. I listen to my friends talk about the trip they are planning to visit out of town relatives and like some of you, I struggle with where might be a good place to take a sensory overloaded, oppositional defiant, obsessive compulsive, high anxiety kid for relaxation! I too share the experience with parents who smile through their fear of what the New Year will bring. I make resolutions that I will be able to juggle more balls than last year, learn something new, stress less and find a better balance.

But at last, when the kids go back to school, and the new year is underway and the dust has settled from the whirlwind we call “The Holiday Season”, we will all have some time to ponder. Parents everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief that we made it through the precarious landscape. I try to reflect and give myself credit for having been prepared and even when not, for having navigated the unexpected. I know I when I have time I will think about all I have received this year and in the years past. I am most grateful for the support, guidance and patience of neighbors, family, friends and our We Rock Community! I am proud to say that I have gained strength over the years to forge new ground and always keep raising the bar for my son and all our special children.

I hope we can take pause over the next few months to contemplate the laughter, the joy and the surprises when our sons or daughters with autism, sit longer than we expect, wear a special outfit, try a new food, or make eye contact for the first time with a family member. I welcome you to join me in knowing that however imperfect we may feel as parents, we have been given a unique perspective through our special children’s eyes. We are here to receive their love and radiate it right back out to the world!



Glendale Gym Helps Special needs Children Play and Socialize

Deborah Portnoy and Michael Cohen have over 25 years between them working with special needs populations. Their 14-year-old son, Harry, is autistic, as well. 

So, they welcomed the opportunity to open We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym, a so-called sensory gym that accommodates all children, but particularly those with special needs.

“When we heard about this opportunity we jumped at the chance to create something that would utilize both of our professional skills and then what we knew personally,” said Deborah Portnoy, co-owner of the facility.

“It helps ones with autism be a little more, just be exposed to more social situations that they wouldn’t otherwise,” said Cohen.

“Not just kids with autism, kids with ADHD and OCD and specific learning disabilities,” said Portnoy.

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Indoor gym provides a place for special-needs children to play

We Rock the Spectrum, geared toward special-needs children, offers free-time play for users.

A new indoor gym in Glendale gives special-needs children plenty of space to jump around and crash into just about anything they please.

We Rock the Spectrum is stocked with trampolines and an indoor zip line with a soft “crash pit” designed to help autistic children with sensory development therapy.

Owner Deborah Portnoy, who’s also mother to an autistic teenager, said the gym is geared toward kids and teens who need help improving senses such as proprioception.

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WRTS 2014 Walk Now For Autism Speaks Los Angeles

“Being the Grand Club Sponsors for Walk Now for Autism Speaks Los Angeles was one of the most incredible days of my life!” says founder Dina Kimmel.We stood in front of over 60 thousand people and know now more than ever that when a WRTS is opening, we are making a difference in the world and giving a home to so many families. “Finally a place where you never have to say I’m sorry” is a need in all communities says Kimmel. A big thank you to Kathleen Lantos Photography as we now get to relive one of the most incredible days in WRTS history! Check out this amazing video above, and see what WRTS and Autism Awareness is all about…

We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym celebrated being a Franchise for 1 year

December 6, 2014
5520 Crebs Ave.Tarzana, CA 91356
Phone: 818-708-0860

We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym celebrated being a Franchise for 1 year by having a Rockin fundraiser for My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation at the Marriott on December 6, 2014. The celebration included Casino night along with an incredible silent auction to fund those families in need of WRTS’S programs. Check out the Gala Video and Meet the Owners of WRTS’S nationwide.

John Mews, BMT, MA, MFTI

Founder and Director at Mewsic Moves

John Mews, BMT, MA, MFTI, is the Founder and Director at Mewsic Moves, a private practice that offers support to families of individuals with special needs.

John received his bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Capilano University in Vancouver, BC. After six years in private practice, John got his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the University of San Francisco. Since then he has expanded his practice to provide counseling, support, and education to the whole family. 

John has been a music therapy advocate for individuals with special needs for more than ten years. He has written articles for the Autism Parenting Magazine and been guest presenter at numerous workshops, conferences and panel group discussions. John served on the board of the Music Therapy Association of British Columbia, and has taught music therapy courses at Capilano University. 

John has since moved his practice to Southern California, and is happy to be joining We Rock The Spectrum – Glendale where he offers one-to-one and group music therapy sessions, as well as family support. He also launched the Glee Choir program, which combines music therapy, and the joy of music making that celebrates the abilities of adults with special needs. 

For more information on the Glee choir click here. 

John also offers videos, blogs and songs available at for parents and professionals supporting individuals with special needs. 
John can be reached at:

How Siblings of Children with Autism are Affected

How Siblings of Children with Autism are Affected

As parents of children with Autism, we understand they require specialized care and attention. Depending upon which part of the spectrum a child falls under, the extent of the support will vary from helping them accomplish daily tasks to needing assisted care on a continual basis. Regardless of the extent of the therapy solutions, parents try anything and everything to give their children the support they need to reach their full potential.

But what about the siblings of the children with autism?

Just like how parents’ lives change when they discover their child has autism, their other children are also affected but in a much different way. Siblings have to stand by and watch, feeling helpless as their beloved brother or sister is affected by a disorder they will not fully understand until later in life. This has the potential to cause anxiety and difficulty in expressing emotions, which can lead to the siblings lashing out at their parents or brother and sister.

Parents who have children that fall into these categories are often at a loss as to how they should address the problems their children are facing. On one hand, they know their child with autism needs the added attention and Occupational, Behavioral, or Speech therapy required. On the other hand, their neurotypical children are feeling neglected and possibly left out – which is also tough on the parents.

While the sibling who has autism is receiving the care and attention they need from therapy, the neurotypical siblings finds themselves watching, almost in the shadows, while the other child receives a large part of the attention. Even though many siblings of children with autism try to understand the need their brother or sister has for the added attention, feelings of jealousy, depression, anger and resentment often arise.

This was the case in my family prior to the creation of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym. My son Gabriel, who has autism, was receiving therapy from professionals as well as utilizing a sensory gym I had set up in my own home. Prior to the in-home gym, Gabriel would receive the lion’s share of attention while my daughter Sophia often stood by and missed out on some of her own activities. Even though Sophia tried hard to understand, she stated on more than one occasion, “I wish I had autism.” This broke my heart as I immediately knew this was her way of letting me know she felt left out and alone.

I want both of my children to feel that they are perfect the way they are, which inspired me to create an in-home gym full of fun, sensory equipment for Gabriel to improve his own skills but to also give Sophia a place where she can play with her brother and friends. It wasn’t quite everything Sophia needed, but it was a step in the right direction and drove me to create and found a gym that changed my family’s lives for the better, We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym.
We Rock the Spectrum not only allows children to play together, but offers a place where play dates can be arranged for a group. We did this early on with Sophia and Gabriel. He would get his necessary therapy in the gym, and she would be able to feel like a kid again and play with her friends.


Because the gym is monitored, safe, and regulated by the dynamic staff, children can make their own play dates with their own friends from school, camp, or other social groups and meet to play and have a great time. With the option to set up play dates for your children and their friends, parents no longer have to worry about telling their typically developing children they cannot have a play date because of a therapy need of their sibling with autism.

By having the ability to play together at We Rock the Spectrum, families with children who fall into both categories now have the ability to say “yes” much more often than ever before, allowing all children to play, have fun, and feel important. Benefiting the entire family, We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym helps to create a more positive dynamic at home and allows children who are typically developing to feel they are receiving similar attention as their sibling with autism.

My Brother Rocks the Spectrum

My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation’s mission is to assist families who need additional financial assistance for the therapy and care of their children with special needs to receive the support they deserve.

My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation was created in honor of Sophia, my daughter who rocks every single day. Sophia has watched as her brother Gabriel has grown and developed from the time he was diagnosed with autism to how capable he is today. Not only have Sophia and Gabriel been the inspiration for my creation of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, but Sophia has become a young therapist in her own right. It wasn’t always easy, but her curiosity to learn, determination to assist her brother, and desire to help others has led her to have a positive influence on many of the children at We Rock the Spectrum. Over and over again, we see children who are typically developing assisting their friends and siblings who have special needs, a dynamic that is allowed to foster and grow in our gyms by having an all-inclusive philosophy and gyms full of amazing parents and staff. Here is what Sophia had to say: “I feel great because I can help my brother and I can help other kids, even kids with Down Syndrome. I am not a Junior Helper any more, I am now a Coach.”

The foundation helps to fund a variety of activities at the gym for families who qualify and need the assistance, including monthly memberships and equipment. The foundation also helps families finance the personal aide some children with special needs require in order to attend a camp or activities at the gym. As the cost for a full-time or part-time aide for a child can become extremely expensive, the foundation is able to help defer some of these costs in order to allow all children to experience the benefits found at the gym through camps and play time.

Through both the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym and My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation, all children, whether suffering developmental disabilities or not, are able to take full advantage of the fantastic, specially designed equipment, open play area, arts and crafts section and come away with a feeling of peace, happiness and accomplishment!