Gymnastics therapy helps kids overcome challenges

July 8, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Gymnastic programs that have been modified for occupational and physical therapy are helping children with different disabilities become strong and more social.

Once a week, 8-year-old Quinn Epstein comes to A Big Blast for gymnastic therapy.

"It's more in a fun environment, and he's having a blast and he's developing really well," said Quinn's mother Sharon.

Sharon is so glad this is working for her son.

"At first I was a little hesitant," she said. "They gave me a free trial, and as soon as I came in and saw Quinn in his first therapy I knew it was absolutely perfect, because it's not like the traditional OT therapy in a clinic."

Quinn was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 1/2 years old.

"I would call his name and he wouldn't respond. He acted like he didn't hear me. He was very repetitive with his toys," said Sharon.

Since Quinn started coming to A Big Blast five months ago, his mom has seen changes.

"His upper body development has increased dramatically," Sharon said. "For example, when we started he couldn't even do the monkey bars, and I've been trying for years to get him to do the money bars like a normal, neurotypical child, and Quinn within three months can do the monkey bars back and forth a number of times."

Rhonda Penzell is the owner of A Big Blast.

"To qualify you just have to have doctor's prescription for OT or PT," said Penzell. "It is therapy...We do an evaluation for them with Dala, my therapist, and then we make an individualized program just for them, depending on what mom wants to do what they want to work on."

"Sometimes it's something just as simple as being able to do the monkey bars or go up and down the stairs or ride a bike, or sometimes it's just dealing with sensory issues and wanting them to get comfortable around people and touching, and things of that nature."

The cost is $180 an hour.

"Insurance covers most of the cost of therapy," Penzell said.

Gymnastic therapy is growing.

"We are now in four different facilities," said Penzell. "Ultimate gymnastics in Gurnee…Northbrook Gymnastics, also in Countryside at Flying High Gymnastics, as well as Flip Gymnastics North Shore, which is in Lake Forest, and we just got Mundelein, the Gym Spot."

Penzell said her goal for A Big Blast was to give kids somewhere to go and "have fun and have a blast."

To learn more about A Big Blast, go to

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