Birthday parties are big in the Adewuyi family. Finding a place to celebrate big with their 8-year-old daughter Gabby, family and her friends was easy. But when it came to 5-year-old Maxwell, who is on the autism spectrum, the challenge to find a place where kids on and off the spectrum could feel comfortable and make memories proved incredibly difficult.
Rochelle Adewuyi sought a place “where they can play, they can laugh, they can make friends and be social and where the parents don’t have to worry about judgmental eyes.”
They couldn’t find that place.
Instead of complaining about the problem, though, Rochelle and husband Paul Adewuyi decided they needed to be a solution. They took money out of their 401K to create the playplace they envisioned. Color Wheel Playhouse in Hanover Park is set to open soon.
“We are just parents. We saw a need for our son and saw a need for other kids we met and said we can at least do our part,” Rochelle says.
In their daily lives, Rochelle is a registered nurse with a background in sales and marketing and Paul works in finance at JP Morgan Chase.
Maxwell showed signs of autism early, before 2, Rochelle says. He didn’t speak as early as his sister and he would hyper focus on cylindrical items.
The couple started researching autism and decided intensive ABA therapy 35 hours per week, with early intervention, speech and occupational therapy was the path they would take for Maxwell.
“We wanted our son to be able to reach his full potential no matter what that looks like,” Rochelle says. “… Autism just happens to be a challenge.”
It also meant packing up the family and moving from Texas to Schaumburg for better services.
Today Maxwell is flourishing right along with Gabby, she says.
But their life hasn’t been without the stares and judgment from others who don’t know what’s going on in their lives. That’s why it is so important to them that they create a place with none of that. Color Wheel, she says, will be that place for all members of the family to simply be themselves.
“We believe that people are all on the spectrum somewhere. Let your life whirl, let it be colorful. It’s OK if you are on the spectrum, find your place and make the most of it,” Rochelle says about the meaning behind the playhouse’s name.
The 2,000-square-foot playhouse will host private parties and open play times. It also will feature a partygoers club so that no child with special needs will have to face a birthday party without guests.
The Illinois playhouse is just a start of their plans; they hope to take the concept nationwide.
“We have to make a difference in kids’ lives, not just our own,” Rochelle says.
In Mom’s Words
The piece of advice that helped you the most early on?
There is no such thing as a perfect mom; love and practice make progress.
What advice would you give other parents?
Love your children, have a true hope for the future, ask for/accept help and give yourself a break—after all you are just human.
Your best mom survival strategy?
Take mental holidays: 10-15 minutes each day go somewhere alone (bathroom perhaps?) take a deep breath, clear your mind, hum your favorite tune and remember your favorite vacation spot.
What has been your worst moment?
The day I was “that mom” at the grocery store, when my 2-year-old threw the biggest tantrum on the floor of the entryway while everyone stared.
What has been your happiest moment?
The moment I heard my babies cry for the first time; they took my breath away.
This article appeared in the summer issue of Special Parent. Read the rest of the issue.