A Big Blast offers a new type of gymnastics for
kids with special needs.
Blast is offering the northwest suburbs a new take on
gymnastics classes for children with special needs.
"The gymnastics therapy is a combination of language, physical
and occupational therapy," says creator Rhonda Penzell. But one of
those words isn't allowed in her gyms. "I make all the moms promise
me, you will not tell (the kids) that they're going to therapy,"
That stipulation is key to A Big Blast's approach.
"They don't want to work at something," says Penzell about the
children in her program. "But if they can find something that's fun
to do, and yet they're getting all the benefits of working with
muscles, it's the perfect match."
By combining therapy with the fun, foam-filled environment of a
gym, kids are able to perfect skills without even realizing it. "I
wanted these kids to have a place where they can have fun," Penzell
Dana Feldstein, 8, is doing just that. "She loves it," says her
mom, Sari. "It's a fun environment for them, it's not a therapy
session. It's other kids around watching, playing, doing the same
stuff in a natural setting, not a set-up setting."
When Dana started, she wouldn't go near the foam pit. Three
months later she swings across it on a trapeze and dives right in.
"Her ability to do it now is just unbelievably outstanding," Sari
Feldstein says. "She feels proud of herself."
Dana is also able to help Duncan Campbell, 9, accomplish his
goals. "Duncan has autism and one of his biggest deficits is social
skills," says Ann Campbell, Duncan's mother. After sharing a time
slot with Dana for three months, he now asks about her and
interacts with her on the equipment. What sets the therapy "apart
from most of his other therapies is that he has this opportunity to
interact with another child, but there's no pressure," she says.
"It kind of develops naturally."
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