BRISTOL, Tenn. – An indoor play space specifically designed for special needs children, and welcoming of all kids, opens in Bristol this weekend.
After first visiting a We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Texas, local parent Sarah Phillips knew it was something she wanted to bring to the Tri-Cities.
“It fostered such a place of inclusion, but also such a place of kindness,” Phillips said. “Seeing things that weren’t at your typical playground and weren’t at your typical indoor play space was what really caught my attention, because my little boy gravitated to all of it.”
As parents of an autistic child, Phillips and her husband John take ownership of the new Bristol location with a focus on education, inclusion and a sense of belonging.
“I hope it’s eye-opening,” Phillips said. “I hope it’s eye-opening to parents that kiddos with unique needs are equally as awesome as a typically developing child. I hope it enlightens people (to) what it means to be neuro-diverse (and) I hope it fosters kindness.”
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Located at 1241 Volunteer Parkway, Suite 420, We Rock The Spectrum Bristol opens its doors to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gym offers a flat rate for two hours of open play and also has membership opportunities. Phillips said they’ll also host birthday parties, camps and other programming in the future.
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym is an international franchise started in 2010 by a California mom who wanted a place where her autistic son and neurotypical daughter could go together. Since then, the concept has spread to more than 100 destinations in 26 states and eight countries.
Featuring physically engaging items like a trampoline, swings, rock wall and zipline, the Bristol location also includes an arts and craft room, toddler area and a “calming” room. All together, the facility is expected to have an immediate and substantial impact on the local community.
According to a We Rock the Spectrum press release, the franchise “provides sensory-safe play for kids with autism, special needs, and neurotypical development” with 12 “pieces of uniquely designed therapeutic equipment that promote learning, development, and sensory-safe play.”
When the doors open at the Bristol gym, Phillips knows it’ll be a special moment.
“When people walk in the door, I think it’s going to be – at least I hope – everything they were expecting and then some,” Phillips said.