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1 November 2008 – I have always believed that there are angels among us, and this organization proves it. The Christopher Douglas Hidden Angel Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes multi sensory environment. The foundation was created in honor of Christopher Douglas Fornes and his grandmother, Joyce Baye. Due to multiple disabilities, Christopher was unable to easily take part in the dozens of activities other children take for granted or to play in the carefree way children are supposed to. Christopher and thousands of children like him are regularly not provided the correct stimulation they need to improve their health and learning capabilities nor are they able to simply play like other kids. While Christopher’s neurological disability worsened, he had an uncanny ability to reach out to people and inspire things in them that no other human spirit could. The people who knew him said he was an angel on earth, here to teach us the true meaning of life. Christopher’s grandmother, Joyce Baye, who sadly died at the young age of 48 before she had the opportunity to meet Christopher, spent most of her life caring and advocating for the rights of those with disabilities. Through Christopher and Joyce, the understanding and appreciation for the value of sensory stimulation evolved.

Multi Sensory Environments

What exactly are MSEs and who can benefit from them? A multi sensory environment is a dedicated room or space where sensory stimulation can be controlled and matched to fit the motivation, interests, leisure, therapeutic, and educational needs of the participant. MSE rooms may have lighting effects, sensory activities, tactile experiences, cause and effect items, sound effects and rhythmical music, tasting experiences and motion stimulation. MSEs give people with a variety of challenging conditions the opportunity to enjoy and control a wide scope of sensory experiences.

Multi sensory environments (MSEs) can improve the health and quality of life for people with disabilities by improving brain activity. Unfortunately, individuals who would benefit from the use of MSEs do not always have reasonable access to this therapeutic stimulation in the United States. The battle to get a person with disabilities what they need is a public war that we are all too familiar with. Hidden Angel’s main goal and focus is to enrich the lives of individuals with cognitive, emotional, and physical disabilities by promoting the use of multi sensory environments in educational and therapeutic recreational surroundings. An individual’s productivity, inclusion, independence, and self-determination can be enriched and cultivated in MSEs.

Who Can Benefit?

MSEs are beneficial in all stages of development, from infancy to the senior years. Consider these statistics:

  • Out of the 53 million adults with disabilities in the United States, 33 million have a severe disability and 10 million need assistance with activities of daily life.
  • National studies have shown 10 to 20 percent of children in school show signs of mental and behavioral disorders ranging from moderate to severe.
  • Additionally, there are almost 26 million elderly people currently living in the United States.
  • MSEs benefit people with cognitive impairments and developmental disabilities ranging from autism, mental retardation, and hearing and visual impairments to mental illness, brain injury, stroke, and dementia. Individuals with these challenges may need assistance in experiencing sensory stimulation. Providing a multi sensory environment can increase a person’s focus and attention, develop and reactivate senses, enhance vocalization, promote relaxation and calmness, lower aggressive behaviors and improve communication and sharing, and the list continues. Most importantly, those participating are happy and having fun.

The Foundation’s Mission and Aim

The Christopher Douglas Hidden Angel Foundation’s mission is to promote the use of multi sensory environments with those populations that can benefit from them. According to Sandra Fornes, co-founder of Hidden Angels Foundation, “Our approach is to create educational forums as well as design and donate facilities devoted to the principles involved in multi sensory environments.” To date, the Foundation has funded MSEs in Florida, Texas, New York, Alabama, and Quebec, and only want to add more locations to that list. The Foundation’s Web site is , where you can view videos and photos of the different multi sensory environments they have financed. The Web site is also a wealth of positive information and even offers a list of items you can use to create your own MSE. Like most non-profits, Hidden Angels relies on funding from corporate sponsors and private donations to keep their mission moving forward. For more information, visit the Web site. This is a fantastic organization whose desire is to provide the possibility of joyous life experiences for those entitled to them.

By Amy Elizabeth Alexander
Exceptional Parent Magazine – Nov. 2008