This week, Dina Kimmel was welcomed back to Autism Live to discuss her inspiration for We Rock the Spectrum and how she never intended it to become the worldwide franchise that it is today.
Becoming the CEO and Founder of a worldwide franchise was never Dina Kimmel’s goal. A self-identified “autism mom”, Kimmel says she “didn’t even think about it.” At barely 2 years of age, Kimmel’s son, Gabriel, was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder and she says it immediately changed her life.
She only ever intended to help her son — the worldwide franchise and overwhelming support that came was nothing she could have ever imagined.
“I listened to my therapists,” she explains that her son’s therapists said he needed intensive amounts of occupational therapy (O.T.) a day and suggested hanging swings in his room to help offset the costs at the doctors’ offices. Kimmel says a typical O.T. can charge around $150 an hour for this sensory therapy and most of the occupational therapy equipment is over $500 per piece, much too expensive for a typical household.
After Kimmel hung the swings in her son’s room, she noticed Gabriel started calming down and bedtime was much easier. Kimmel explains that her daughter, Sophia, who is neurotypical, didn’t know these swings were meant for therapy, and began playing on them as well. “All of a sudden my children who never interacted began to interact,” she says.
After having the homemade gym in her house for over a year (what she dubbed “Casa de Kimmel”), she convinced her husband to go look with her at a newly available gym location down the street from their home. “I didn’t even stop and think for a second. I just dove in and said ‘Let’s get this done.’” Kimmel explains. She was a parent who needed to consider both children, her daughter and her son, and opening this gym allowed her to do that. Her ambitions were modest: improve her children’s relationship with each other, pay the bills, and provide her son with additional sensory therapy.