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Davis Journal

New sensory gym opens in Kaysville

Apr 12, 2024 08:32AM ● By Bailey Chism
Friends on the Spectrum offers a safe and inclusive environment for children to play and be themselves. Photo by Bailey Chism

Friends on the Spectrum offers a safe and inclusive environment for children to play and be themselves. Photo by Bailey Chism

A unique play place called Friends on the Spectrum recently opened its doors to offer a blend of play and purpose for children with autism and their families. 

Individuals with autism more commonly experience difficulty in social situations and struggle to find a community of their own. Young adults with an autism diagnosis are 14 times more likely to be socially isolated and about 30% of children and young adults with autism already are socially isolated. 

“They struggle with social skills, social interaction, reading nonverbal communication,” said MaShel West, founder of Friends on the Spectrum. 

MaShel and her husband started a business that’s much more than just a place for kids to play. It’s somewhere they can just be themselves. 

The business is close to West’s heart, inspired by her son Lucas, who felt he needed a place he belonged. Lucas’ journey with autism pushed West to leave her corporate job of 20 years behind and put her focus on creating this inclusive space. She saw the isolation that children with autism, like Lucas, had to face and wanted to make a difference. 

“It’s devastating,” West said. “So the goal is that we'll just build confidence for them.” 

This led her to create a space where children and young adults on the spectrum can create meaningful relationships in a safe and neutral setting. 

West noticed the lack of such places, especially in Davis County. While there are behavioral and speech therapies available, she saw the gap in support for social skills. The sensory gym aims to fill that void, offering play sessions, special events and even parent empowerment classes. 

“The goal is, eventually they would go and be able to have their own relationships outside this facility, but it just at least allows them to start,” West said. 

Parent empowerment classes are taught by their resident therapist, Lori Kransy, every Saturday, who will help parents develop new perspectives and skills to help their child grow and engage in personal ways. 

“The parent empowerment groups focus more on recently diagnosed [kids],” West said. “You’re going through a kind of a grieving process of understanding what’s gonna happen. You become an expert, because you have to.” 

West and her husband took a course by Kransy when their son was diagnosed nine years ago. Kransy helped them through the fear of the diagnosis and helped change their mindset. 

“My husband Clay and I actually went through this course work with Lori when Lucas was 3 years old,” West said. “To this day, we both will attest that this course is still the most impactful and life changing support that we received. It completely shifted our mindset on our son and what he was capable of.”

Kransy holds her sessions every Saturday for eight weeks. West offers to watch their children with autism while parents take part in the two-hour sessions. 

Friends on the Spectrum aims to create a safe and inclusive community where individuals on the autism spectrum can come together to socialize, learn and have fun. Their goal is to empower individuals with autism to develop social skills, build confidence and foster a sense of community. 

West is now working on another project to help individuals with autism. Consistency and predictability define the life of someone with autism. Change disrupts that and it can be difficult for them to be OK with it. West reworked the lyrics and music to a popular Disney song and partnered with students from Utah Valley University to create a music video. It’s meant to help individuals with autism learn that change is OK. She called it “We Don’t Talk About Changes,” inspired by Encanto’s “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” 

They’re now working with a videographer to make a music video for children that is essentially a Social Story therapy, a technique therapists use to help provide coping skills for children in situations that are difficult for them. They create stories with the child’s name and create better outcomes for the child in situations where they are typically irritated and uncomfortable. 

“I'm hoping that this could be good for them as far as singing different words to the songs layout that actually are just these affirmations to them,” West said. 

The song and video are in the final stages of production and should be released soon. 

Friends on the Spectrum is located at 657 N. Kays Drive Suite D, Kaysville. Those interested in learning more about services or contributing to Friends on the Spectrum can visit their website at or call them at 801-718-6551.