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Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. A “spectrum disorder” means it affects each person in different ways and can range from very mild to severe. People with this condition share similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction, but there are differences in the onset, severity and exact nature of the symptoms.
National data show one out of 68 children (14.6 per 1,000) are on the autism spectrum disorder, although prevalence estimates varied widely across the country.
The Colorado monitoring project, a collaborative effort of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and JFK Partners/Developmental Pediatrics at the University of Colorado, found a slight increase over two years when the same geographic area was compared. One in 92 children aged 8 years in the seven-county Denver metropolitan area (10.8 per 1,000) had an autism spectrum disorder in 2012, compared to one in 101 (9.9 per 1,000) in 2010.
Jefferson County Public Schools reports the district has 430 students listed as being on the autism spectrum.
Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
WHAT: We Rock the Spectrum: An indoor sensory gym
WHERE: 8330 W. 80th Ave., Unit 1, Arvada
HOURS: 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays pending special events or social skill groups
CONTACT: 303-284-3049; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.werockthespectrumarvada.com
At the grand opening of We Rock the Spectrum in Arvada, children with autism played alongside children without the disorder. It was the environment that owners Amy and Abe Woszczynski envisioned when they made plans to open the franchise last year.
“We’ve always wanted to be business owners, but never found anything that was worth us taking the risk until we found We Rock the Spectrum,” Amy Woszczynski said during the grand opening, Saturday, Jan. 21.
We Rock the Spectrum — a franchise out of California — provides sensory-safe play for kids with autism, special needs and neurotypical development. Each gym features 10 pieces of therapeutic equipment specifically designed to work with many of the sensory processing issues that children on the spectrum face, while providing all children with the sensory-diet necessary for improved learning and neurological development.
For example, the zipline helps children with vestibular sensations and sensory feedback, while allowing them to better develop upper-arm and core strength.
The Woszczynskis found the franchise when their 5-year-old son, Asher, was diagnosed with autism. Almost a year later, their gym opened in Arvada as the first Colorado franchise.
Arvada being their hometown, it was the couple’s first choice when opening their business.
“We didn’t think we would be able to find anything affordable, but this is our community,” Abe Woszczynski said.
They did at 8330 W. 80th Ave. — just behind Buffalo Wild Wings.
“I just want a space where families with kids on the spectrum can come and not have to worry about leaving because their kids are acting in a certain way,” Amy Woszczynski said.
She adding that the gym is a space for autistic children, but is open to all children, including siblings and friends not on the spectrum.
Kate Dran of the Autism Society of Colorado said this is a wonderful opportunity not just to raise awareness but to raise acceptance in the community.
“I’m looking at kids that are developing typically and kids that are developing with autism and they’re all in here playing together,” Dran said. “A place like this has inclusion baked in.”
Dran said that in the Jeffco area, she has noticed an increase in acceptance and awareness of autism, which is something the Woszczynskis want to continue.
“We don’t want the community to be afraid of autism,” Amy Woszczynski said. “Because there is still a stigma and it’s disappearing, but we want to help that disappear more.”
A second Colorado-based franchise is scheduled to open in Littleton later this year.
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