Indoor gym provides a place for special-needs children to play

A new indoor gym in Glendale gives special-needs children plenty of space to jump around and crash into just about anything they please.

We Rock the Spectrum is stocked with trampolines and an indoor zip line with a soft "crash pit" designed to help autistic children with sensory development therapy.


Owner Deborah Portnoy, who's also mother to an autistic teenager, said the gym is geared toward kids and teens who need help improving senses such as proprioception.

"[Proprioception is] knowing how your body feels, what's touching our body and what our body is doing," she said. "A lot of our kids need some heavy impact to feel right in their body, so the trampoline gives them that … or they go on the zip line."


Hanging above all the equipment is a sign that reads "finally, a place where you never have to say I'm sorry."

Portnoy said she's glad to have a place for fellow parents of autistic kids where they don't have to worry as much about their little ones.

"Every place they go, they have to say, 'I'm sorry my kid spilled your drink' or 'I'm sorry they're so loud,'" Portnoy said. "We're always apologizing for our kids out there in the real world. Here, we're doing the opposite."

And sometimes, some of the children who visit her gym just need to jump around and vent their energy so they can be a bit more calm at the dinner table, Portnoy said.


We Rock the Spectrum is also open to children who don't have special needs, like Lilly, the 6-year-old daughter of Silver Lake resident Leslie Newton.

"It's great to get all that energy out before bedtime," Newton said.

We Rock the Spectrum, a franchise that began in the San Fernando Valley and opened in Glendale in May, offers free-time play where kids can use the equipment on their own or with a parent.

Some occupational therapists use the indoor gym to work with children, while the facility itself also offers a series of social-skills and speech programs, as well as a music room where youngsters can bang on drums or strum on guitars.

In between all the activities, a 3-year-old Great Pyrenees named Kaih is usually laying around somewhere and always welcomes a good petting session.

Portnoy and her husband, Michael Cohen, decided to open the gym when they were in need of more space for Portnoy's 14-year-old son, Harry, to get some exercise.

Portnoy has a background in psychology and working with autistic patients, while Cohen has worked with the nonprofit Easter Seals.

"We take pride in every family that comes through the door," Portnoy said. "We're going to try to creating something for them that works."


We Rock the Spectrum in Glendale, located at 413 S. Central Ave., is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information, including pricing, call (818) 945-5444 or visit