KALISPELL — Rylee’s Play Place — a specially designed sensory gym — opened in Kalispell this October providing a safe indoor place for children to play year-round.
Owner April Schottelkorb said the gym includes special features to help accommodate children with diverse needs, including her daughter Rylee who has autism.
Schottlekorb’s said her daughter was diagnosed with Autism when she was three years old.
“Rylee likes to play at playgrounds, and she likes trampolines and swinging and things like that,” added Schottlekorb.
April said Rylee struggles to communicate verbally and doesn’t like to wear shoes or coats, as they make her feel uncomfortable.
“It makes it hard when you go to playgrounds and other people don’t understand and of course we get dirty looks from others who don’t understand how come your daughter’s not wearing shoes and it’s freezing out here why is she not wearing a coat, well, believe me, I’ve tried, it’s been years." - April Schottelkorb
Schottlekorb is a mental health counselor and play therapist, primarily working with young children who struggle to communicate verbally.
She saw a need in Northwest Montana for a sensory gym and started planning two years ago.
“I thought well why not make something where she can be herself and other kids like her can also come and feel comfortable too,” added Schottlekorb.
Rylee’s Play Place is equipped with swings, a trampoline, monkey bars, a zip-line, and more.
The colorful play place is designed to help kids of all developmental stages feel welcome.
“Her favorite things probably the zip line,” added Rylee's sister Alia Johnson.
Johnson loves seeing Rylee be herself in a comfortable setting, "so, then no one can bully her."
Alia has witnessed Rylee being bullied at different playgrounds. She likes that her sister and others with diverse needs can always feel safe at the play place.
“I like that, well, people can just come here and play, they can do whatever they want, they can just be themselves,” said Johnson.
Rylee’s Play Place is open weekdays for open play at specific hours, with no more than five children at a time.
Schottlekorb said the space can be rented for birthday parties and is open to all children, not just those with diverse needs.
“A safe fun place to play for kids specifically focused on kids with disabilities but really open to any kids that like active play,” added Schottlekorb.