kids, teens and young adults meet weekly to exercise together.Now in partnership with JVS, Fuse[FORCE] is an affordable exercise class for kids, teens and young adults living with autism and other developmental challenges. The class was started by acouple parents who were in search of a healthy activity for their kids with special needs. They were frequent clients at Fuse45 / Cycle & Row and wondered if physical fitness in this setting could also be good for their kids. Now classes are available in both Royal Oak and West Bloomfield studios for these kids, teens and young adults.

After a year of small group work with these incredible kids, here’s what the founders of Fuse[FORCE] have to say…

Testimonial by Julie Zorn, parent of Fuse[FORCE] participant and co founder of Fuse[FORCE]

I met with the owners of Cycle & Row (Fuse45) late 2015 and I asked if they would consider starting a class for children with special needs.

Both of my sons have autism and I knew other parents who were looking for healthy programs for their children with special needs. Karen and Sam were open, supportive and excited to get it started. The first couple of classes, the “kids” were tentative. Every week the “kids” have gained confidence, strength and connections with each other, the volunteers and the instructors. This is my favorite hour of the week. To see my children, and other teens I’ve known for many years, participate and thrive in a fitness class AND be pushed to do the workouts like any other person Sam and Karen train, is truly what I was hoping for but have not yet found until now.

Now that we know it’s possible, it’s our responsibility as parents, professionals, and community leaders to expand and assist this program and like programs to grow and be available regardless of financial barriers.

Testimonial by Donna Carter, parent of Fuse[FORCE] participant

For Aidan, this class has been a fun way to get him exercising, which is sometimes challenging. His lack of age appropriate coordination makes team sports difficult and unenjoyable yet his love of food makes exercise absolutely necessary! He is very proud of himself when he hits the goal number on the bike, rower or ski machine. The goals are always a challenge but also achievable. The concrete measure of activity, by time, distance or calories means he has fun, gets sweaty and he doesn’t argue about it! Also, I think it is gradually preparing him to someday participate in a class with neurotypical participants. We might be able to do fitness classes together in a few years.

Testimonial by Carol Crain, Fuse[FORCE] co founder

Several months ago I noticed a class on the Cycle & Row (Fuse45) schedule for children with special needs, and out of curiosity, asked Karen about it. I feel a personal connection to the concept, and as a parent, I understand how important access to quality intervention is. As I observed the class, I found myself smiling from ear to ear. The kids were having fun, moving and interacting in ways that clearly were boosting their skills on every level. I saw happy, confident kids, enjoying the workout, and being challenged in significant and important ways. I noticed teamwork. I noticed kids helping each other. I noticed the kids pushing themselves to accomplish tasks that were physically and emotionally testing their limits. I noticed success. I noticed joy. I noticed Sam and the way she connected to the kids. It was a delight to watch her, and to see the engagement and excitement that she elicited. She doesn’t treat the kids like they were disabled. She treated them like they were incredibly able, and they in turn rose to meet her realistic expectations. The skills that these children develop in this humble class have the power to positively impact all areas of their lives. The physical gains transfer in every possible way- cognitively, emotionally, socially, and eventually, vocationally. All of which sets the stage for optimized functioning, connection, participation, and life satisfaction. I’m excited to help grow and evolve this program in any way that I can.

Testimonial by Samantha Friedman & Karen Kelman, co owners & co founders of Fuse45 and Fuse[FORCE]

When Julie approached us about teaching a class to children on the Autism spectrum, we let her know right away that while we were excited for the challenge, we lacked experience in this space. Julie trusted that we would do a great job, and we are thankful she did.

We learned very quickly that teaching these kids physical fitness was really no different than teaching our neurotypical clients. They require instruction, care, and motivation like everyone else. On a personal level, the first couple of classes were very challenging. Our hearts were heavy for the parents who struggle to communicate with their kids on a daily basis. Some of the kids have low verbal skills, as just saying, “Hi Sam and Karen” takes tremendous amount of concentration and practice. Each week, we are completely amazed at their growing achievements in building strength, balance, physical coordination, listening skills and bonding with others. They are treated just like everyone else who walks through our door, including following the same Fuse45 format. We believe this is why they are thriving.

These kids may not be able to communicate like so many of us or be completely independent, but they can work out like everyone else. When we first started, we never would believe that in just a few months, the kids would be running through the door, hopping on their favorite bikes, waiting for instruction and exercising like they’ve done it a million times. They follow, they perform, they have fun and we are forever grateful for the opportunity to help them grow.

Know a child with special needs? See if they could benefit from Fuse[FORCE] group exercise classes.  Learn more here.

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