Australian-first special needs gym to open in Victoria

Nick Hall

An Australian-first gym will be unveiled to the public this weekend, when ‘We Rock The Spectrum’ opens its doors in Preston, Victoria.

The purpose-built gym is a franchise of the U.S. model by the same name and is designed for children with special needs, with specialised equipment including slides, swings and ziplines.

All of the equipment is designed by occupational therapists with the aim of aiding the sensory development of children with processing disorders, while providing additional motor skill development.

Sally Johnson is the local mum and master franchisor behind the Preston opening and was inspired to bring the concept to Australia after seeing the benefits first-hand.

“Within my own special needs community, I see the desire families have to connect with one another,” Johnson said.

“I also see how great families feel when they know their children are benefiting from activities that help them regulate their sensory needs, while having fun.”

Johnson’s son Digby was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at age two, and the pair struggled to find play centres where he felt included.

After learning about the ‘We Rock The Spectrum’ model, Johnson traveled to the U.S. to see the gyms for herself, meeting with founder Dina Kimmel, who shares a familiar story.

Kimmel developed the specialised concept in 2010 after her two year old son, Gabriel was diagnosed with Autism, allowing families with special needs children to engage in sensory-beneficial activities.

Now in its fourth year of franchising, ‘We Rock The Spectrum’ has over 70 locations across the globe, with the Preston opening marking the third international franchise and first for Australia.

Specialist gym franchises have garnered much attention in Australia of late, however this latest model caters to a traditionally under-represented market.

According to a recent study from AMAZE, Victoria’s peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder, only four per cent of autistic Australians feel their community knows how to properly support them.

Johnson, along with business partner and brother, Marcus will be holding a grand opening on Saturday, August 11, offering the local community a chance to see the inclusion centre in action.