How to Design Your Space to Support Those with Special Needs

by | Nov 9, 2021 | Design-Build, Facilities

Originally posted on Aspen Group

Intentionally building a program for individuals with special needs provides your church an opportunity to share the Gospel with individuals of varying abilities and allows them to fully grow in their faith. It also lets the families of those with special needs feel supported, knowing their loved ones feel comfortable and confident in their environment, and are valued members of the church family.

The following projects we worked on for Chapelstreet Church’s Masterpiece Ministry and Parkview Community Church show how design can help support a special needs ministry:

Sensory Rooms

These rooms provide a range of stimulating experiences that can be designed for groups or individuals. They can include swings, weighted blankets, mini-trampolines, exercise balls, and squeeze toys. Some sensory rooms also incorporate special visual features, such as lava or colored lamps, water fountains, and dimmable lights.

“We have new families come in and check out our space and say, ‘Wow! You made this just for us!’”

Jamie Velenti, Director of Special Needs, Chapelstreet Church

Quiet Rooms

These small, comforting spaces with soft, oversized furniture provide a calming, peaceful environment for those who might need short-term respite from larger, more active rooms.

chapelstreet-quiet-room-special-needs
Chapelstreet Church, Geneva, Illinois

Soothing lights, sound machines that play various sounds, and essential oil diffusers can be helpful additions for those with visual, auditory, and olfactory sensitivities.

Strategic Check-In Areas

These specially designed drop-off areas allow families to check in with leaders or volunteers in an organized and confidence-inspiring way. These check-in zones can help parents feel less overwhelmed when arriving to church, and give volunteers the peace of mind when working with individuals.

parkview-check-in
Parkview Community Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Oversized Restrooms

These restrooms are intentionally designed to accommodate wheelchairs and may include adult-sized changing tables. Because of their height, size, and stability, loved ones can manage diapering needs of any sized person.

chapelstreet-bathroom-special-needs
Chapelstreet Church, Geneva, Illinois

“You need the right furniture in the room, but you also need space to move in the room.”

Jamie Velenti, Director of Special Needs, Chapelstreet Church
chapelstreet-restroom-special-needs
Chapelstreet Church, Geneva, Illinois

How you design and utilize your space is crucial in supporting those with special needs, as well as communicating your understanding of their world and your desire to meet them in effective and creative ways.

Each church’s special needs program will be unique and the space should mirror that, so it should be approached with intentionality. Talk with the families and special needs experts to get their advice and wisdom in this area before starting out.

More About Aspen Group

Is your church looking to incorporate a special needs ministry? Let our design experts help you create a space that supports individuals of varying abilities. Let’s talk!

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