Customized Church Experience for Special Needs Community in Desoto County
By Jessi Wallace, Communications Director, Getwell Road UMC
Photo right: Laney Hamilton explores the Nursery Sensory Room and enjoys the lighted bubble tube feature with her brother Clark.
Photo bottom right: The Young Adult Sensory Room features comfortable furniture, sensory activities and a calming corner to appeal to teens and young adults and their parents.
Getwell Road UMC in Southaven, Mississippi is now home to three new sensory rooms, making it the only church in the Desoto County area to have this kind of customized room for special needs kids and young adults.
A sensory room is a safe, comforting place for those with special needs who benefit from having a variety of activities that either stimulate their senses or provide a chance for calming during times of overstimulation. Getwell Road's three new sensory rooms are designed for kids or young adults with specific ages in mind -- the Nursery Room for children through age four, the Children's Ministry Sensory Room for children ages five through preteen and the Young Adult Sensory Room for kids in their teens and older.
Getwell Road Pastor Bill Beavers says that the rooms are a great benefit to the community and the church, and something that has been needed in the Desoto County area for some time. "Now that we have a dedicated sensory space for special needs kids and young adults here at Getwell Road, parents can take time during the week for spiritual refreshment and know that their child is well cared for, safe and happy during that time," said Beavers. "Our church has ministered to families with special needs children for many years, but these rooms really increase our opportunity to reach out to the special needs community in Desoto County and the surrounding area and provide something that further enhances their Sunday mornings."
With the Nursery and Children's Ministry rooms, parents can attend a class or worship service while entrusting their children to volunteers in the rooms who have a heart for special needs kids, including those with a variety of diagnoses such as the autism spectrum. The Young Adult room is open during worship services so that parents and their teens can experience all or part of a service together as it is streamed over a television screen. "The Young Adult Sensory Room is a great option for parents whose teenager or young adult is not comfortable sitting through an entire service in our Family Life Center and may need a place to go for additional stimulation or calming," said Getwell Road Family Ministry Director Greg Meek. "This removes some of the stress from parents who are concerned about being able to focus on the worship service - either for themselves or for those sitting around them."
About the Sensory Room Features
Church staff and Special Needs Ministry volunteers worked with local experts and national vendors to outfit each room with features that appeal to the specific age range that it is designed to accommodate, as well as the wide spectrum of children that can benefit from sensory stimulation. The Nursery Sensory Room features a lighted bubble tube, fiber optic "rain shower" light feature, ball pit, swing, jumping station and other activities to either calm or stimulate a child's senses. The Children's Ministry Sensory Room includes an activity area with a tactile wall with textures and sounds, a table with sand and other textures for digging and play, a chalk wall and an activity table with a car or train set to put together or a marble run to enjoy. The mini trampoline and sit spin help kids work off excess energy. Both rooms include an aromatherapy machine and soft music, enhancing the calming area where lights can be dimmed so that the lighted bubble tube and fiber optic strands can be seen and touched to help relax an overstimulated child. The Young Adult room has comfortable furniture, shelves with a variety of activities that appeal to the senses and a calming corner. "The Young Adult room is geared toward meeting special needs kids where they are in terms of sensory needs, but also where they should be developmentally and socially, so it looks more like a regular room that the young adult would encounter on a daily basis," said Whitney Russell, Early Intervention Specialist with Through The Roof Pediatric Therapy who taught special needs children in Desoto County for several years and volunteers for the Special Needs Ministry at Getwell Road.
For more information about Getwell Road's new Sensory Rooms, please contact Getwell Road UMC Communication Director Jessi Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.