Deborah Portnoy and Michael Cohen have spent the last two decades working with the special needs population, as well as supporting the challenges related to Deborah’s teenage son Harry.
“Harry started climbing out of his crib at 10 months old. He actually went vertical before moving horizontal. He never crawled, only climbed and ran everywhere he went. He was constantly in motion, often tripping over his own two feet. Little did we know then that those were signs of his Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). This affects the way he sees, hears, moves, tastes, smells, and everything he touches. His challenges also include sleep disturbances and a language processing disorder. Harry has autism and at his age and size it has been impossible to find a safe, affordable, recreational place for him to meet his sensory needs and be social. Harry is one inspiration for opening a We Rock The Spectrum Kids Gym but the story would be incomplete without us telling of his sister, Rachel, who was constantly dragged with and had to sit in the waiting room through countless hours of therapy. It was hard for her being only one year older, to pass time throughout her brother’s “interventions “. Occupational Therapy (OT) was the most difficult because it was a huge gym full of awesome play equipment for kids but she was not allowed to jump, swing or even step on the mat with her brother. Despite our best efforts, life was often not fair or fun for her.
We Rock the Spectrum is a gym for all kids, and it means just that. Siblings can play while their brother or sister has therapy or while a parent has a meeting, takes a class, goes shopping, goes to a movie or has social time with other parents. We know all kids need to be active to keep their minds and bodies healthy. We also know that families sometimes need a break from their healthy active kids. Many like Harry on the autism spectrum, struggle with SPD but it’s also often associated with Attention Deficit Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, learning disabilities, language disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and more. It affects almost every aspect of a person’s life, as well as the family members that love and support them. Those with SPD need the kind of specialized equipment we provide at We Rock and do not have regular access to it outside of an expensive OT facility. Truly though, all kids and teens can benefit from a safe, fun, cool, and accepting place to jump, swing, climb, crash, hang out, and play. We offer an experienced and distinctive point of view, and are passionate about helping others stay fit, while giving support and guidance to families about “rocking” life on the spectrum.”
Deb’s professional work related to autism began in 1993 with Independent Living Skills (ILS) for young adults. She also runs social skills groups, camps, workshops, and theatrical productions throughout Los Angeles. Mike has worked for Easter Seals of Southern California for 15 years and is looking forward to owning a business that truly fills a growing need. The fact that he’ll get to play everyday is an extra bonus! Being a drummer, he is excited about exposing kids and teens to instruments and the potential doors that music can open.
Deborah feels blessed to have met the owner and CEO/ founder Dina Weiss Kimmel through her longtime friendship with Harry and Rachel’s paternal grandmother. The kids spent the first 5 years of their lives in the hand-selected clothes from Dina’s prior business, Lucky You.
“We indeed feel lucky and grateful for a lifetime of love and support from our parents who understand that it really does take a village. We are thrilled to be opening a new We Rock The Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Glendale, our local community. Come in and meet our family, and become a part of a much larger one inspired by Dina’s vision to create “Finally a Place Where You Never Have to Say I’m Sorry”.”