TAMPA, Fla. — Mark Fleming was 11 years old when doctors diagnosed him with autism.
“It took me a long time to accept that diagnosis,” Fleming says.
Nineteen years later, he is taking what makes him “different” and using it to help others just like him.
RELATED: Tampa café run by people with autism gets new life as food truck
Fleming recently opened Puzzle Piece Fitness in Tampa. The personal training studio helps people with autism and special needs get in better shape.
“It’s very sensory friendly here,” says Fleming, who earned a master’s degree in human performance from the University of Alabama. “We take out the sounds, the smells. A lot of people sweating doesn’t smell good.”
Fleming says a regular gym — clanging iron, constant movement, cramped spaces — would cause sensory overload for many people with autism.
“I have overactive eyes, so my eyes are always bouncing everywhere,” he says.
Puzzle Piece Fitness may be brand new, but Fleming already has seven clients with interest coming from all over the country.
RELATED: Award-winning chef urges restaurants to hire people with autism
When asked how big his training studio idea could get:
“We’ll have to see," said Fleming while smiling.