Programs offer kids with special needs opportunities to play, learn, create – The New Orleans Advocate

Brandi Boyd had a simple goal: to bring her three sons, 11, 5 and 2, to activities they could all enjoy. But it wasn’t easy. Her eldest, Xavier, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, often feels uncomfortable in noisy crowds and bright venues.

So in September, after more than a year of planning, Boyd and her husband opened a franchise of “We Rock The Spectrum” — a playroom that’s custom-built for children who have trouble processing certain sensations but welcoming to all.

The gym is in Esplanade Mall and features a zip-line, crawl-through tunnels, a trampoline, swings and climbing structures, along with arts and crafts stations, aerobics classes and sturdy toys for tots.

“This place is designed with certain colors and a certain layout, so that it can be useful and fun,” said Boyd, explaining that the soft, neutral colors have a calming effect. Red is used in areas that are off-limits.

The layout allows parents to see their children from any angle of the room. Gentle games, like dressing up in costumes, are on one side of the venue, while climbing stations and trampolines are on the other, so everyone is safe.

The mobile version of Boyd’s gym — We Rock on Wheels — brings that sensory entertainment to festivals, birthday parties and other private events.

With more than two dozen locations nationally, Kenner’s We Rock the Spectrum is one of several local programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Most incorporate elements of physical activity and socialization, along with arts-based exercises that facilitate creative expression.


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