When Theresa Nix's son, Everett, was born with Down syndrome seven years ago, she found talking with other moms of children with Down syndrome to be far more helpful than any amount of research in navigating the unique challenges of having a child with special needs.
In 2014, she started Downside Up and Camp Wakawalu, a camp for children with Down syndrome and their families to get together for a weekend of fun, games and support. It grew to include families of children with different disabilities — some of which are extremely rare — to provide a community for families who felt alone in their situation.
As time went on, it became more apparent there was a need for that sense of community and support year-round. That's how the idea came about for Training Wheels, a local space for families with children of all abilities to gather in a creative environment for classes, play and other activities.
Opening in January, the space also provides a place where parents can meet a friend for a cup of coffee while their children play. Office space is available for parents to use while their child engages in one-on-one creative play with education interns majoring in special education, physical therapy and teaching at area colleges. The space will also host mother's day out programs for several hours, as well as events for families.
"It's important that the entire family is the focus," said Nix, explaining that families that also have typically developing children are often focused on the needs of the child with a disability.
The name Training Wheels was chosen because at some point in life, everyone needs training wheels to provide support and balance, she said.
Classes will include yoga, sensory play and art, cupcake and cookie decorating, and singing workshops. A toy library will offer a variety of toys, games, learning resources and medical and therapy equipment for all children age 8 and younger. Families will be able to check out up to five toys for a four-week period.
"As my son gets older, these are things I would have liked him to have had," Nix said.
Families can pay $2 per day to use the space, or purchase a membership for $75 a month. Scholarship memberships are also available. Toy library membership is $55 a month.
Training Wheels will hold an open house Dec. 8 to show off the indoor space, but the outdoor play area is awaiting additional funding to be completed.
Downside Up raised $10,000 in March during the first phase of its fundraising campaign, which is now in its second phase with a goal of $25,000. To make a contribution, visit classy.org/campaign/training-wheels-phase-2/c224912.
Training Wheels is at 621 E. 11th St. and can be reached at 364-0991. For more information, visit trainingwheels.space.
Email Emily Crisman at email@example.com.