Meet the Owners!
In 2009, Marissa moved to Jacksonville, FL from the Midwest to finish her degree in Psychology and begin a career in the field of education. Marissa is raising two daughters, Skylar & Finnley, with their Spunky Shepard, Oscar! As new a parent, she became part of the special needs community when Skylar was diagnosed with a Submucosal Cleft Palate at 2 ½ months of age. She quickly learned the struggles, concerns, and new lifestyle a parent with a child who has special needs goes through on a daily basis.
After many therapies, evaluations, second-opinions, and surgeries, they are very proud of their brave, smart, resilient little girl who continues to battle speech issues on a daily basis. While completing both her undergraduate and graduate degrees, Marissa was a full-time teacher of developmental gymnastics for children ages 4 months to 12 years old. She had a passion for working with kids in a fun, physically challenging environment. All children were accepted into her classes, but she noticed certain children, those with developmental disabilities, would often be stigmatized in that environment as being “different”. The class pace was too fast, skills progressed too quickly, and often times the children would learn more through their own driven exploration than sitting and listening to an instructor for long periods of time.
After completing her Masters-Level degree at the University of North Florida in Special Education, Marissa began to work full-time with a wide variety of children diagnosed with Autism, at all different age levels, providing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. In the clinic, she worked diligently at the table teaching functional communication skills, hand-eye coordination, compliance with simple tasks, among numerous others. No matter how the day was going, the highlight was always when the child could get up and MOVE! Play with an exercise ball, spin in a chair, jump on the trampoline, all with big smiles and an openness to try new things. Teaching in this environment showed Marissa just how much a child could potentially learn through movement and play.
To date, Marissa continues to be a full-time Behavior Analyst and is dedicated to bringing that motivational, enriching learning environment to children with a wide variety of developmental disabilities. We Rock the Spectrum – Kids Gym is the perfect mesh between her love for physical education and special education.
Lea is a Jacksonville native who is very passionate about her work. She currently lives in St. Augustine, Florida with her husband, Christopher, daughter, Addison, and their newest addition to the family, Dawson! In both high school and college, Lea actively participated in extra-curricular clubs at school, specific to working with children with disabilities. Lea received both her Bachelors and Masters Degree from the University of North Florida. Her undergraduate degree is in Special Education, with a concentration in Deaf Education. Her studies in this area led her to explore her interests in other disciplines. She went on to complete her Graduate Degree in the same field, with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. Lea volunteered her time at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind as part of her internship as well as alternate sites working one-on-one with children with special needs.
While working towards her Masters Degree, Lea worked full time at a daycare teaching VPK to children with special needs and after school programs for those ages 2-5. Lea saw how much the children would benefit from teaching through movement activities, such as hands on manipulative play, songs and dances, as well as both indoor and outdoor exercise. She has always enjoyed working with all children, especially those with special needs.
Lea went on internship at a private ABA clinic, which immersed her further into the special needs community. Her passion quickly became working in the Autism community, specifically those with communication deficits. Lea worked as behavior therapist while completing her Board Certification in 2014. She became a Behavior Analyst who implemented behavior modification programs by conducting direct services, as well as supervised the client’s progress with their individualized programming. Lea has experience with many individuals under the Autism Spectrum umbrella, from early learners with no functional communication to young adults learning social skills and community integration. While working with these wonderful individuals, Lea knew that she could do more than just provide behavioral therapy in a controlled clinical setting, which led her interest We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym.
She believes the unique and wonderful qualities that ALL children have is what sets them apart from others. For Lea, it has always been such a pleasure to be a part of their world.
Our Gym Includes:
- Suspended equipment with swings – for balance and vestibular treatment
- Crash mats and crash pillows – for fun, motor planning, and strength
- Zip line – for stress release and joint and body relaxation
- Trampoline – for building leg and core strength
- Indoor play structure – for climbing and increasing playground skills
- Sensory-based toys – for improved auditory processing and fine motor skills
- Fine Motor and Arts and Crafts Area – for improved hand-eye coordination