We Rock the Spectrum: Dallas and Plano gyms redefine inclusive play for kids

Story and Video by Lawson Martin. Photos provided by We Rock The Spectrum.

A kids’ gym in Dallas full of sensory play equipment creates an inclusive space where children of all ability levels can flourish together.

We Rock the Spectrum was designed for the developmental needs of children with sensory processing disorders in mind. There are 140 We Rock the Spectrum gyms nationwide, including locations in Dallas and Plano.

Dina Kimmel founded We Rock the Spectrum to create a safe and inclusive environment for children of all abilities, inspired by her struggles with finding suitable play spaces for her son, Gabriel, who has autism. After witnessing the positive impact of sensory equipment on Gabriel’s well-being, Dina was determined to make this resource available for all families.

She opened the first We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in 2010, offering affordable open play sessions as an alternative to costly private occupational therapy. The gym quickly gained popularity, prompting Dina to franchise the concept.

We Rock the Spectrum – Dallas opened in 2020, and then, not long after that, We Rock the Spectrum – Plano opened in 2022.

Taylor Wiesner, her sister Chelsea, and Chelsea’s husband, Nick, recently moved to Texas to be close to family and together they own and operate the Plano location, too.

Taylor is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and does ABA therapy in clients’ homes, clinics, schools, and group homes across the state. As BCBA, Taylor recognizes the importance of socialization among children, especially those with autism, so she opened these gyms to create a place for her clients and others in the community to socialize with other children and families.

“Also, with having three boys of my own, I wanted them to be able to play with kids of all abilities and learn to play with kids who are different from them,” Taylor says.

Both locations feature a zip line, a trampoline, climbing areas, sensory-based toys and equipment, indoor play structures, and a calming room.

We Rock the Spectrum provides “play with a purpose.” Children who play at the We Rock the Spectrum gyms exercise and stimulate their seven senses for positive physical, emotional, and social development.

“Our kids think that they’re just playing, and they’re really developing a lot of great skills like learning how to balance and body control,” Taylor says.

According to Taylor, many children who come to the gym already receive occupational therapy each week, where their parents learn what specific skills their child needs to work on. Then, children can come to a We Rock the Spectrum gym and practice those skills by having fun outside of a therapy environment.

“We have monthly membership options, and many of our families will come in every day, and we’ve seen kids who couldn’t even walk onto a trampoline who are now jumping,” Taylor says. “It’s really cool to watch kids grow independent in our gym and play without so much parent supervision, which is great.”

Also, many other gyms may be large and overstimulating for children, especially those with autism, but We Rock the Spectrum gyms are tailored to support all children. Inside each gym, you will find a calming room with a quiet, dark space for children to unwind. The room has bean bag chairs, and specific sensory toys children can play with to help calm them.

Beyond providing equipment to support a child’s development, Taylor believes the We Rock the Spectrum gyms offer a welcoming space where parents do not need to apologize and their children can be themselves.

“A lot of our special needs families have been asked to leave typically developing kids’ play places because a lot of them are not geared towards kids with special needs or the staff are not trained on how to handle kids with special needs properly,” Taylor says. “So they might not understand if a kid is stimming, if a kid is screaming, or if a kid starts having behavior while they’re playing in the gym.”

At We Rock the Spectrum, all staff members are trained on how to talk to families of children with special needs and how to help them best.

“This is one of the first places that they’ve been to where their kid can handle staying for a long period of time, and they haven’t been asked to leave,” Taylor says.

But the gyms aren’t just for children with developmental disabilities and delays. All children are invited to the gyms to have fun.

“For typically developing kids, it’s a great way for your kid to learn how to interact with other kids different than them and really understand kindness and compassion,” Taylor says. “At our gym, it doesn’t matter what your diagnosis or ability is. Everyone’s just here to play and have fun.”

At both DFW locations, We Rock the Spectrum offers open play for families between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Families can come and play for as long as they want during this time. Open play hours can vary on the weekends depending on when birthday parties are scheduled.

Parents can call and book a birthday party for their child at We Rock the Spectrum anytime. Because the sensory-safe gym is designed for children of all abilities, it ensures that no one is left out on their special day.

We Rock the Spectrum also offers camps and We Rock Care services. We Rock Care is respite care designed to provide a break for families of children with special needs. Parents can call and reserve We Rock Care daily, as long as it is 48 hours in advance.

Taylor says her favorite part about owning two We Rock the Spectrum gyms is the gyms’ mission of inclusion.

“In an ideal world, special needs families could go anywhere and be included and welcomed,” Taylor says. “My main mission is for my own children to learn how to interact with different kids and families, and hopefully, we have a more inclusive world in the future.”

You can learn more about We Rock the Spectrum – Dallas and We Rock the Spectrum – Plano by visiting their websites.