Meet the Owners!
Opening a We Rock the Spectrum in our local community is a dream come true for our family; we envision a safe and kind space where no family ever has to say, “I’m sorry,” or explain away behaviors of their children. We dream of a space where inclusion is the norm; where children of all abilities can have fun, make friends, and feel good about being themselves. We also envision our gym as a community hub for programming, a safe place for respite and therapy, and a home for parents and caregivers to find meaningful adult conversation, share their personal stories, and to pick up helpful resources.
Mike is a public high school English teacher. In his spare time, he coaches Little League baseball in our beloved hometown of Collingswood, NJ, shuttles Julian (7) off to karate several days per week, and tries to no avail to combat the barrage of sass that comes from of our sweet Lily (3). We’ve been married for ten years, and together for nearly twenty, so when I entered the autism community professionally, Mike was by my side for the journey.
My first job in the field was with an organization that promoted meaningful employment for individuals with autism and related disorders; I was honored to fundraise and advocate for people who were bright and skilled, yet terribly misunderstood and undervalued by society at that time. By the time I joined Autism Speaks in 2007, autism research and advocacy efforts were exploding. Over the course of seven years, I served as a regional walk director, executive director for the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter, and the Director of Programs and Services for the Northeast region.
Autism Speaks families shared their powerful and personal stories with me, and permitted me to share them with others who would follow in their footsteps. I learned so much, and carry each one of their stories with me to this day.
During that time, I also made adult friends with autism who advocate for themselves and others in the community with such courage, dignity, and grace. Befriending an Autism Speaks employee during that time may not have been a popular choice for them, but I hope they now feel that it was a good one as I’ve learned so much from them, and I think I’ve been able to share valuable perspectives from parents and caregivers that have helped to shape their own thinking. Thanks to these friends and to all of the new family members we gained along the way, we were well prepared for Julian’s diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder just before his fourth birthday.
With Julian’s diagnosis came a lot of occupational therapy and doctor’s appointments, so I left Autism Speaks for a part-time position with Hill Top Prep, a wonderful school for bright and creative kids with autism, anxiety, ADHD, and related issues. Hill Top’s students and graduates inspire me every day; many are now shaping the world as engineers, artists, and analysts. I look back to my first job in the field where we had to work so hard to convince employers of the tremendous
talents of our neurodiverse clients, and I realize just how much that has changed today!
So, that’s our history, and We Rock the Spectrum is our future. While I pushed Julian on a swing during our first visit to We Rock together, I struck up a conversation witha mom whose son had just been diagnosed with autism; she was overwhelmed, but resolute. I was so grateful to have an arsenal of hopeful stories and local resources to share with her, and I was even more grateful that she shared her story with me because when the time is right, I will pass it along to another family at our very own We Rock the Spectrum Gym.
We hope you will bring your children of all abilities to our gym so they can have fun, make new friends, and feel good about being themselves. And while they’re doing that, let’s share stories that will inspire the next generation of families in need of a little inspiration and support for their own journey.
See you soon!
Our Gym Includes:
- Suspended equipment with swings – for balance and vestibular treatment
- Crash mats and crash pillows – for fun, motor planning, and strength
- Zip line – for stress release and joint and body relaxation
- Trampoline – for building leg and core strength
- Indoor play structure – for climbing and increasing playground skills
- Sensory-based toys – for improved auditory processing and fine motor skills
- Fine Motor and Arts and Crafts Area – for improved hand-eye coordination