Fox Valley welcomes new sensory gym to the area

1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism, according to the CDC
Published: Mar. 19, 2023 at 7:59 PM CDT
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NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - “Oftentimes, spaces for individuals with disabilities are an afterthought. This is not an afterthought,” Owner & Directing Manager of The Sensory Club Neenah, Tammy Ross, said while gesturing around her gym.

Swings, rock climbing walls, crash pads, monkey bars, a trampoline, a ball pit... the list goes on. It’s all under one roof designed to meet the needs of people with sensitive sensory conditions.

The owners said they want to improve access to safe, supportive spaces.

“Our son is 27 right and now. Back when he was eight-years-old he was diagnosed with autism. Back when he was diagnosed there was nothing like this out there for anybody,” Owner and Business Manager Scott Ross said. “We always said we’d like to provide a space for people, for kids like our son to go to a place where they could develop friendships, use therapeutic equipment they couldn’t afford.”

The Sensory Club Neenah is the first gym of its kind in the city and the third member of the franchise in our state. More than 350 people celebrated the club’s grand opening March 11.

“They can go to a gym. They can go to places like the trampoline park,” Tammy explained. “But often they’ll get overwhelmed by the space or it’s not safe.”

Scott said, “We see these kids come in and they don’t wanna leave. They’re having a blast. Every piece of equipment in here is being used. You can just see the joy on their face when they’re in here. It’s a safe space for them.”

It’s not all athletic: “We have a sound chair, bubble tubes, fiber optic lights...” Tammy said while inside the club’s Multi-Sensory Environment room. “Individuals who often don’t have control over their environment, they can actually control that space. That can help with anxiety.”

Scott remembered one mother telling him she felt a sense of relief at The Sensory Club.

“She was able to sit in the parent waiting room right over there and watch her son play knowing there’s nothing he could get into that could harm him. She was able to relax for the first time in a long time and her son had freedom to roam around and enjoy himself.”

Some, taking care of the space like it’s their own. Members Hunter and Devyn Swagel tidied up after spending the day at the gym.

“These kids are brilliant but they also have challenges and we want to tap into that brilliance,” Scott said. “We want to help them to overcome the challenges they have in life because of autism or other disabilities.”

Another way the club tries to improve access—people eligible for the state’s Children’s Long-Term Support Program could get their fees subsidized.

Members can visit The Sensory Club at 976 American Drive, Suite 8 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.