Sensory gym aims to help kids develop life, motor skills

What looks to be an indoor playground is actually a place for children to heal, grow and succeed.

Angel's Play, LLC, an occupational therapy sensory gym, opened its doors in November. Gina Hutto, an occupational therapist and Lisa Robinson, an occupational therapist assistant, have partnered up to offer children a chance to develop or regain skills they need throughout life in a comfortable and fun environment.

Robinson said she wanted their facility to resemble more of a playground, somewhere familiar to children and not just a place that looked like a doctor's office. She said it's a child's occupation to play, and what better way to learn or grow than doing just that?

“I wanted it to be a sort of a fun zone,” Robinson said. “I think we've done that.”

Equipped with zip lines, swings, a ball pit, tunnels, a trampoline, rock wall and toys for fine motor skills, children have a blast without even realizing that they're actually working hard to improve their own skills.

The business works with children of all ages and abilities. The focus is on children with ADD or ADHD, auditory processing disorder, Asperger's, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, visual motor, fine motor or development delay and upper extremity weakness.

They also work with children with handwriting and coordination difficulties.

Services include helping improve sensory integration, fine motor and motor planning skills, vestibular processing, upper body strength and hand and eye coordination. They work on visual perceptual, handwriting, play and social skills, too.

Parents learn just as much from the therapy as the children, Hutto added. They evaluate a child and come up with a plan with the parents that will best help that child progress.

Hutto and Robinson each have approximately 20 years of experience in pediatrics and sensory integration. Currently, they work with the Aiken County School District as well as run this new business.

Hutto said that she and Robinson have been wanting to start a facility like this for several years.

“We were doing some work on the side for another company, and we were finding that those children and our children at school were not being provided, in our community, with a sensory gym to help with these (sensory) issues that they're having,” Hutto said.

She added that Robinson has been a perfect match for her as a business partner.

“She's taught me a lot,” Hutto said. “She's very driven; she's a driving force. Lisa motivates me and herself all on her own.”

Hutto said that they would like to give 10 percent of what is earned at their business back to the community, whether its to a church or non-profit.

Some of the funds will go toward a scholarship that's in honor of Hutto's daughter, Kaley. Kaley died in 2006 after a horse riding accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. The Kaley Alexis Hutto Memorial Scholarship will be given to a graduating senior from Aiken County who has a learning disability to assist them in their endeavor of a higher eduction.

When asked what the best thing about the job was, Hutto said “the kids.”

“We think these children are angels, hence the name,” Hutto said. “They truly are angels who were put on this earth to make us better people.”

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