Rancho Cordova trampoline center aids kids with autism

08/08/2012 12:00 AM

07/11/2013 8:37 AM

Matthew Bell, 6, loves to jump. "It's like his favorite thing," said his 9-year-old sister. Her name is Christine, but for a long time Matthew only called her "Rapunzel."

Matthew has autism, which explains why he invents nicknames for the people in his family, and why he craves jumping. Autism also makes it hard to find places to jump.

Matthew is uncomfortable with roughhousing, so the crowds of children at many gyms can be difficult for him.

The trampoline in his family's backyard in Elk Grove works well, but it isn't big enough for him, Christine, and his younger brother Nicholas to jump on at once.

"It's difficult for him to find a place where he can just let go... where there's stuff that he loves," Christine said.

There was plenty of room at Sky High Sports in Rancho Cordova on Tuesday afternoon during the trampoline gym's monthly jump session for children with special needs.

Jerry Raymond, who established Sky High Sports with his brother in Santa Clara in 2006, has a son with autism.

"We don't have the ability sometimes to go out and play in the general stream of things," he said of families of children with special needs. "So it's always been important to me, since we started Sky High, to take those things into consideration."

Sky High now has 15 gyms around the country. Each gym contains several trampoline courts, each made up of about a dozen individual rectangular trampolines. The courts also have angled trampoline walls that collect overenthusiastic bouncers.

Some courts are dedicated to dodgeball, and others include foam pits for somersaults and acrobatics.

For the sessions for children with special needs, the staff turns down the music and reserves one court without an overwhelming amount of noise or a large crowd.

Manuel Guzman brought his 5-year-old son William, who has autism. They came during Guzman's lunch break.

"It's hard to take him places that have loud music or lots of noise," he said. "There's too much stimulation."

For Jerry Raymond's son Tyler, who just celebrated his 20th birthday at one of his father's gyms, the trampolines have helped him develop coordination and social skills.

Tyler will play dodgeball for four or five hours straight. "He's a great dodger," Jerry said. When he finishes, Jerry said, "he's dripping in sweat, he's smiling, and it's like, I did a great job as a parent today. I got him off the video games. He didn't even know he was exercising."

Children with special needs can jump for $5 the first Tuesday afternoon of every month at the Sky High gym at 11327 Folsom Blvd. in Rancho Cordova. That's less than the gym's regular price of $9 per hour. A parent, nurse, or therapist can join them for free.

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