US mom aims to open kids gym so neurodivergent kids can play and grow together


Inclusive sensory gyms provide a space where neurodivergent children can participate in physical activities alongside their neurotypical peers. Photos:

A gym tailored to meet the needs of neurodivergent children and their families is in the works in Hampden Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in the United States.

Jozay Finazzo is opening Play Pod Cafe, a non-profit cafe and sensory gym that will celebrate inclusivity.

“I have had this idea in the back of my mind to open this play café for a while now,” she said.

The mother of two young children, including one diagnosed with autism and another with attention deficit disorder, said she is negotiating a lease for space in a shopping center along the Carlisle Pike in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and hopes to be open by early next year.

The goal is to create “a community, connect with one another and provide a safe and inclusive space for children with minds of all kinds to play and grow together,” according to the website.

A gym for children with special needs can serve as a therapeutic space, aiding in the development of motor skills, coordination, and physical fitness. A gym for children with special needs can serve as a therapeutic space, aiding in the development of motor skills, coordination, and physical fitness.

To help fund the project, Finazzo launched a capital campaign and hopes to raise about US$165,000 (RM767,745) through sponsorships and donations.

The cafe will fund itself through day-to-day operations, while additional funds will be funneled into a grant program to help local families offset costs associated with neurodiversity associated therapies.

Finazzo said they hope to give financial aid to two families per month.

The non-profit will combine a gym with activities such as a rock climbing wall, foam pit and monkey bars, along with space for birthday parties and classes as well as a coffee counter. A playhouse will feature modular structures that can be moved around.

All of Play Pod’s equipment will serve a purpose. It has been proven sensory play helps neurodivergent children with self-regulation and focus, especially if they are upset or frustrated, Finazzo said.

Many families, she added can’t afford or don’t have space in their homes to store the equipment, which is similar to what occupational therapists use.

The gym will be open for about four hours a day from Monday through Saturday, and will mostly cater to children under the age of 10. Enrichment classes, parent playgroups and party rentals also will be available. – News Service

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