Rocking the spectrum: Nobody ever has to say ‘I’m sorry’

Maritza Aguirre’s struggle started when her daughter Emily – now 13 – was diagnosed with autism at four years of age.

“We always struggled to find places to take her because she would behave differently to other children,” the mother of four said.

“It was really hard because people would always judge us because of her tantrums. The places we did go were crowded and people would stare and I didn’t feel comfortable taking her. We just wanted her to feel like any other child and not feel alone.

“We have always wanted to open a business to help children with special needs and their families… somewhere where they feel like they belong. Finally a place where you never have to say I’m sorry.”

And now she has. Maritza and husband Luis are the owners of We Rock the Spectrum – Sydney West which is located in Wetherill Park. It’s the first one in Sydney.

Officially opened in May, the gym provides sensory-safe play for kids with autism, special needs and neurotypical development.

As an NDIS registered provider, they have been open for private sessions and respite for individual families during COVID-19 restrictions.

The equipment, which includes swings, trampoline and a zipline, is specifically designed to work with many of the sensory processing issues that children on the spectrum face.

“We Rock the Spectrum operates like a play centre where children of all abilities can come in play and it’s a great place for other parents to meet each other,” the Edensor Park resident said.

“Places like this are very important because kids with special needs feel different. So when you take them somewhere public, especially kids with autism, you can’t tell that there’s something wrong with them. So people always say what’s wrong with that kid? Having a place like this is going to help them feel that they have somewhere where they can be themselves and they feel welcome.”