“My favorite class is phys. ed.”
Matt Brennan may never hear his 13-year-old son say those commonly heard words because his son is "not real vocal." But Brennan believes the sentiment behind them will be felt this school year.
He and so many other parents who have kids involved with the Cincinnati Center for Autism in Springdale are thrilled their children will get to take part in gym classes in a “normal” gym.
“Our kids have so many adaptive resources, so to have a real gym with a real gym floor is something I really wanted to do,” said Brennan, founder of the center located at 305 Cameron Road.
Brennan’s son, Blake, was his inspiration for starting the center in October 2003. He said he was fed up with the lack of resources and assistance provided to local families with autistic children.
After almost 10 years of development, the school has 22 full-time staff members and 100 students. The gym is the final project for the 10,000-square-foot former church building.
Brennan, who admits physical education was always his favorite class, refers to the gym as the “icing on the cake.”
“The gym’s main purpose is to provide classes to teach our kids gross and fine motor skills,” he said.
Because many children on the autism spectrum struggle to hone the skills necessary to play basketball or other sports, the center’s athletics classes focus on teaching basic skills like bouncing a ball. Brennan said learning these skills is important to building the children's self-esteem.
While it was Brennan's dream, the new gym will be a reality thanks to the time, effort, resources and money of various individuals, companies and organizations.
Two of the primary partners in the construction of the gymnasium are McSwain Carpets and the Cornerstone Foundation, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization that works to "transform a generation of youth and young adults."
With assistance from the Cornerstone Foundation, McSwain Carpets donated and installed the gym floor this past weekend. The company's CFO, Kevin Carnes, worked alongside his employees to help lay the flooring.
“The space is designed to give the kids a childhood experience and give the parents a ‘normal’ experience,” said Carnes whose nephew has autism.
The next step in the process is to coat, sand and line the gym floor.
Because autism causes hypersensitivity, Brennan said McSwain pioneered a new UV technology for coating the gym floor that does not have a lingering odor. This will allow the gym to be used the same day the coating treatment is applied so they won't have to wait several days for the smell to subside.
Brennan said he is deeply humbled by the donations that have helped make his dream possible.
“Thanks to the donations, there is no other facility like it in southwest Ohio,” he said. “For me, I am excited for the families to see the gym and say, ‘Wow, this is really cool!”
The gym is set to be finished Aug. 21, the first day of school for the students.