A new We Rock The Spectrum gym will open Saturday in Mount Pleasant – Journal Times

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MOUNT PLEASANT — Heather and Andre Bennett have spent most of their careers as educators helping neurodivergent children and different needs. When their son, Dawson was diagnosed with autism in 2013, Heather knew she wanted to do more, not just for him, but for other families in similar situations. After processing their son’s diagnosis, Heather started looking into opening a business.
From Left: Andre, Dawson and Heather Bennett are pictured in their living room. Heather and Andre are the owners of the new We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, 5509 Durand Ave., Suite B, Mount Pleasant.
On Saturday, the Bennetts will be opening the southeastern Wisconsin chapter of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym at 5509 Durand Ave., Suite B, Mount Pleasant.
We Rock The Spectrum is a chain of children’s gyms orientated around kids who might have developmental or physical needs. While these children are the focus of these gyms, they are meant to be enjoyed by all children.
The Mount Pleasant gym will be the third gym in Wisconsin, aiming to serve not only families from the Racine area but also Kenosha County and northern Illinois. The nearest affiliated gym is on Rawson Avenue in Oak Creek.
The Bennetts initially found the organization when Heather looked through social media for ideas for a business of her own. She wanted to create something for her son. Dawson showed interest in gymnastics classes, so the gym seemed the perfect fit.
We Rock the Spectrum gyms is now a global brand, having gyms not only in the states but in locations like the Philippines, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
Heather and Andre have years of experience working with students, especially those with special needs.
Andre has worked as the principal of Starbuck elementary and has been the executive director for Racine alternative programming for five years. Heather worked at Gilmore from 2003 to 2009, and took time to stay and be with Dawson after he was born. She also worked as the dean of students for Case High School before dedicating her time fully to Dawson and working on starting We Rock The Spectrum.
“This is our new baby,” Heather said of the gym.
Neurodiversity: The multiplicity that exists within humans regarding neurological differences resulting from variations in the human brain.
Ableism: A set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be “fixed” in one form or the other.
Allistic: Not affected by autism. Used in a sentence, “Someone with autism may be indistinguishable from their allistic peers to a layperson.”
Neurotypical: Refers to a person who does not exhibit neurological differences such as autism.
Neurodivergent/Neurodivergence: Differences in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical. Examples include autistic, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and dyspraxia.
Acquired Neurodivergence: Refers to when a neurological condition is acquired later in life such as through traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
— According to the Therapist Neurodiversity Collective and the Oxford English Dictionary
Among the sensory safe equipment at We Rock The Spectrum, there is a zipline that lands children into a crash pad. The floor underneath is a soft gym mat.
The motto and mission statement for We Rock The Spectrum is “Finally a place where you never have to say ‘I’m sorry.’”
This motto is something that really touched the Bennett’s in a personal way.
“It very much is a space for us. We’ve had a big kid all our lives,” Andre said. “We have a kid who has a significant amount of sensory needs. For us, just trying to go places just like every other parent would want to take their kids — like a park or playground or an indoor play area or whatever — we’ve always had some issues with it; not a ton, but there have always been some issues in his ability to be in that space.” But as for the new gym, “That’s what this space is. (Parents) don’t have to feel any certain way because their kid is a little different and maybe not showing behaviors that are typical of neurotypical human being.”
Some of the sensory safe equipment present at We Rock The Spectrum.
From sensory-safe gym equipment covered in soft-smooth padding to a floor covered in gym mats and family-safer bathrooms with changing areas for kids of all sizes, We Rock the Spectrum is dedicated to supporting all people with sensory needs.
The gym’s grand opening will be 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.
We Rock the spectrum will also have a retail store featuring sensory toys, apparel and puzzles. The store also sells socks, which are required to play in the open gym area.
Open play costs $14 per child, with siblings being discounted to $12. Monthly passes are available as well, starting at $150 a child. Party packages and private play sessions are also available.
Once the gym is established, the Bennetts want to be able to partner with occupation therapists in the area, allowing them to work with the equipment. Heather, who has a background in occupational therapy, could also assist their patients.
The hours of operation for We Rock The Spectrum are based on parties and private events, so it is encouraged that people check werockthespectrumracinecountywi.com for open gym scheduling.
Campfires, coffee brewing, freshly cut grass, a pine forest and fragrant rose gardens all offer an opportunity to sniff something special. Talk with the kids about which aromas make them want to linger and which they are eager to pass by. Do certain scents evoke a memory from a previous experience? Notice how different members of your family respond.
While out and about, encourage the kids to close their eyes and tune in. Is that the whistle of a train in the distance? Do you hear a horse clip-clopping down the trail or the hoot of an owl? Listen intently to the traffic noise in the city, waves crashing on a rocky shoreline or an unfamiliar bird chirping in the trees.
Particularly in these changing times, leaving the comfort of home can evoke a range of emotions, spanning from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and uncertainty. When the time comes to venture further from our own front steps and perhaps into an unfamiliar landscape, each member of your family is bound to feel something new. How might your crew react to the humidity of a coastal town or the dry air of the Sonoran Desert? Who feels tired? Or hungry? Or even homesick? Talk about it.
From petting zoos and tide pools to horse farms and turtle sanctuaries, travel has historically offered families the opportunity to reach for the unexpected. Today, many of those rules have changed. Before you head out, discuss your safety protocols. COVID concerns aside, spiny cactus, colorful coral and certain green, leafy plants might look interesting, but close contact isn’t advised.
While we’ve been staying home, many families have used the time to encourage kids to expand their culinary range. While we can’t visit far-off lands at the moment, it’s a good time to talk about the origins of different ingredients and why many are unique to specific regions of the world. Seek out the websites of cities, countries or resorts you might like to visit. Many are offering recipes that will enable you to explore the food and drink of destinations around the world. From curry and coconut to bok choy and barbecue sauce, there is a story to accompany every flavor you’ll sample.
(Lynn O’Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com)

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Raised just outside of Mchenry, Illinois, Alex is the business reporter and staff photographer for The Journal Times. He considers himself a Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen all-in-one. Alex is a graduate of SIUC in Carbondale, Illinois. Twitter:@arodatjt
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From Left: Andre, Dawson and Heather Bennett are pictured in their living room. Heather and Andre are the owners of the new We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, 5509 Durand Ave., Suite B, Mount Pleasant.
Among the sensory safe equipment at We Rock The Spectrum, there is a zipline that lands children into a crash pad. The floor underneath is a soft gym mat.
Some of the sensory safe equipment present at We Rock The Spectrum.
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