Mother of Daughter with Autism Opens a Gym for Children with Special Needs

For a vast amount of reasons, 2020 has been a difficult year for many families and individuals across the world. From lockdowns limiting recreational activities, to students being home all day with online learning, and severe restrictions on any open business, socialization has become much more of an undertaking. Families that have children with special needs are especially struggling in this regard, with many afterschool programs on hold and some parents needing to take time off or even quit their jobs in order to be home with their children. One mother in Tucson, Arizona noticed this struggle, and decided to take matters into her own hands.

Destiny Wagner is a business owner and a mother of two. “I have kids, one has special needs. She has microcephaly and autism. I have a son who is more neurotypical. For the longest time, we were wondering what we could do together,” she told KGUN. It wasn’t until she stumbled onto a video on YouTube that she knew what she had to do. “In that moment I said, ‘That’s it. I am doing this.’ This is what Tucson needs. This is what my family needs. This is what a lot of families need.”

coming soon sign on special needs gym
Photo: Facebook/We Rock the Spectrum – Tucson

And so, Wagner set out to create We Rock the Spectrum – Tucson, the city’s first ever gym specially designed for children with special needs. The expansive building is filled with equipment and toys that are designed to help with sensory processing disorders, however all children are welcome to join in on the fun. “We have certain swings that help you with your balance,” explained Wagner. “Most kids catch onto that around ages two, three, or four, but some kids take longer.”

children playing on gym equipment with the text
Photo: Facebook/We Rock the Spectrum – Tucson

“This is a place for all kids,” she continued. “For some who know how to do it, it’s just fun to play on. For some, it will help them learn and that’s amazing.” Although Wagner had been making steady progress on her gym, the COVID-19 pandemic put many of the gym’s equipment and supplies on back-order. This pushed back the business’s opening date by about a year, but Wagner says she was always able to stay positive and fight for what she and other families in Tucson need.

mural of children holding hands around the world with the text
Photo: Facebook/We Rock the Spectrum – Tucson

“I want us all to feel very comfortable,” Wagner said. “It’s an inclusive and safe environment for families.” The gym officially opened its doors on February 6th, 2020 and is now allowing pre-booked open play time and private facility rentals to maintain safety while the coronavirus remains a prevalent threat. To follow along as this business develops and grows, check out We Rock the Spectrum’s Facebook and Instagram pages!

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