For this fab party issue, we had the huge pleasure of chatting to Northside mama, Sally Johnson. She’s the rockin’ super woman behind We Rock the Spectrum in Preston. After Sally’s son was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at aged two, she dreamed of an affordable, inclusive place that she could take him where he could play freely on suitable sensory equipment and where she could meet families on a similar journey. So, with the help of her brother, she created it. 

Sally, tell us a bit about you and your family. How old are your kids?

I’m a 42 year old Mum and business owner from Thornbury. I have an 8 year old son, Digby and 5 year old daughter, Minty.

What were you doing before kids?

I worked for adventure travel company, Intrepid Travel as their Global Direct Marketing Manager and after having children ran a small photography business, Dally Street Images with my husband.

What’s the story behind you wanting to start up We Rock the Spectrum – Australia?

My son, Digby is Autistic and has ADHD. He is very sensory seeking and social but always struggled to navigate play spaces. It became very isolating for our family and I longed to find a place for him where his sensory needs were met and where him and our family were accepted and supported.

Low and behold another mum was feeling the same in the States and was setting up We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gyms. After learning about the business I joined forces with my brother to bring the concept to Australia.

I was sure there were other families who were looking for an inclusive play space like We Rock the Spectrum, and I was right! One of the best things has been support and enthusiasm from the mainstream community as well, as every child benefits from play in a sensory safe and inclusive environment, with specialist equipment and caring staff!

I’m sure your children love having a play at your kids’ gym, but what do you like most about your business?

My kids definitely like having their own sensory gym to play in. My son in particular has really benefited, developmentally from having such regular access to the gym. His gross and fine motor, balance and communication development has gone through the roof! And it’s been wonderful to see my two children play together there so well because my son obviously feels more regulated and comfortable in the space.

I really enjoy feeling a part of a special community who value inclusion. I have met so many wonderful families who appreciate having a relaxing play space to come with their children, typically developing or not. It’s a great feeling to know that children and families leave the gym feeling great in their bodies and accepted and valued. I leave the gym with a smile on my face each day.

Tell us a bit about what the gym includes, and who would it suit?

All We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gyms are open-to-the-public sensory gyms for children of all abilities. The majority of our kiddos are 12 years and under, although we do offer older children with special needs to use the space as well.

The unique sensory equipment found at We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gyms include ten pieces of specialised equipment that is specifically designed for children with sensory processing disorders. This equipment aids children’s sensory functions while they learn, build strength and play. The equipment is specialised but all children benefit from its use.

What’s your fave thing about being a mum?

On a deeper level, I love how humbling being a Mum is! Whether they are neuro-diverse or not, children can sure shake up your world and make you question all you thought you knew about the world. And I think that’s a great thing.

On a lighter level, both of my children are very affectionate and I love all of the cuddles.

What are your favourite Northside places to take the kids for fun?

We live a fairly simple family life and have a pretty regular weekly routine of Northcote Pool, All Nations Park with our puppy, Gelato Papa in Preston for icecream, Thornbury Picture House for movies and we have regular meals at Thai Tikki Hut on High Street. We now meet up with friends for fish and chips at We Rock the Spectrum for a private playdate. That’s something anyone can book the gym for too. Our friends are thrilled we built a play gym!

We’re talking a lot about parties in this issue. What are kids parties like at WRTS?

They are so fun and relaxing for parents! We offer a really unique party concept and try to take it as far away from the cookie-cutter play centre party as possible.

We have two options for parties. You can have exclusive use of the whole gym and party room or can just have the party room, with the gym space remaining open to the public.

Families can opt for a gross motor activity or sensory activity to add to the party, although kids are usually kept very busy going wild on the sensory swings, zipline, climbing structures and trampoline!

You can visit We Rock The Spectrum Gym at 378-380 Gilbert Rd, Preston