Introducing the Reid Room for Sensory Supports
By Nicole Zaccaria, Open Doors Ministry Coordinator
We all learn through our senses. Think for a moment about a scent that you love. I can close my eyes and recall the scent of my grandparents’ house when I was growing up, and the feelings of happiness and love that I had in those days still overcome me. I can also remember the first time I visited my grandmother 6 months after my grandfather had passed away, and the sorrow I felt from the change in scent. Maybe you love the smell of coffee in the morning or cookies baking in the oven. For all of us, those scents are different. My mother loves the smell of gasoline, and it makes me nauseous. The same goes for sound. Do you like to put on soothing music after a long day? Do you prefer silence? Or, does the sound of a loud, lively home relax you? We all have our preferred sights and tastes. Is there anything that you just can’t stand to eat? It may be the taste, or it may be the texture. We all make sense of our world through our senses. We all find comfort through some sensory input and become agitated and bothered by others. Most of us, however, are born with the ability to regulate our bodies. When we smell that scent we love, we know how to remain calm instead of becoming over-excited, and when we hear that music that is too harsh or stimulating, we know how to block it out. Individuals with sensory regulation disorders cannot do so.
Church is a place where all of our senses can be overloaded. There is the scent of the flowers in the Sanctuary, the perfumes that people are wearing in the nearby pews, the feedback from the microphone, the buzz of the lights overhead, and the touches from hugs. There are many behaviors that a person with a sensory regulation disorder may display in response to discomfort. For example, they may start laughing unexpectedly, they may yell out to test the echo in the Sanctuary or activity center, or they may cover their ears and cry. In addition to being overstimulated, individuals can become under-stimulated. Sitting still in a pew, the early Sunday hour, the soothing music can all add to an individual being under-aroused. In response, they may start jumping up and down to awaken their body.
The Open Doors Ministry (ODM) has seen all of these behaviors and more. When this happens, we’ve moved into the hallway to assist in calming an individual, but this is not a very private place where our participants can calm with dignity. John and Sarah Reid established the Reid Family Open Doors Ministry Endowment in the Grace Foundation that provided the initial funding for the sensory room. It will continue to supply support for the future needs of ODM. Additional donations have been provided by Cathy Bozett, Megan Ginley, Barbara Hoch, Jill Ridder, and Ruth Wills. We are so blessed to have this space to offer support to our participants in the Open Doors Ministry and to help us to welcome individuals of all ability levels to worship at Grace.
In the fall of 2018, the sensory room was opened. It is a safe, calm place that has allowed ODM participants a place to process their sensory experiences and regulate their bodies. Now that the construction project is complete, we welcome the congregation to come see this room, experience the calm that it brings, and learn more about sensory regulation. It is with grateful hearts that on Sunday, August 18, we will officially dedicate the room as the Reid Room for Sensory Support (downstairs in room 151). Please join us anytime between 9 a.m. – noon for cake, celebration, and time to explore.
If you think someone in your family could benefit from the sensory room, please contact Nicole Zaccaria, the coordinator of the Open Doors Ministry (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This is a place that is open to the congregation but is to be used with an adult that has been trained in the tools of the sensory room. Additional training sessions will be offered this fall, so watch for the release of these dates in Grace in Mission.