Originally Posted September 13, 2016, Katharine Kim, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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Anne Delery McWhorter’s love for her child and for all people who live with Autism and other special needs is creating a movement within the disaster-relief community. Through the Red Cross Office of Disability Integration, the first Blue Room—a portable cardboard room designed to soothe the over-stimulated senses of people with Autism and other developmental or neurological disorders—was made available at the River Center shelter in Baton Rouge.

Following the loss of their home due to the Louisiana Flood, 2-year-old Azzie and his mother, Keeira, came to the Red Cross shelter in downtown Baton Rouge. From the time Azzie entered the shelter he exhibited near-violent behavior. When Anne introduced Azzie and his mother to the blue room, he responded immediately by calming down, playing appropriately and acting more loving toward his mother and the shelter staff.

“I am thrilled to have been able to help Anne navigate the process,” said Terry Freeman, a Red Cross Disability Integration specialist who helped in Baton Rouge. “Her sensory gym is one part of many new initiatives of Red Cross Disability Integration, whose purpose is to support people with access and functional needs. It is our hope to see more of these gyms in future disaster relief operations.”