Harmony Hensley: Welcoming Ministry Environments for Kids With ADHD (Part One)

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This is the sixteenth post in our Fall Series: ADHD and Spiritual Development: Strategies for Parents and Church Leaders

We’re honored to have Harmony Hensley take over the blog for today and Friday. In addition to serving as consultant to our team at Key Ministry, Harmony is Pastor and Director of Outreach and Inclusion Ministries at the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. The Vineyard has been ranked as one of the 50 most influential churches in America and is known for a strong outward focus and servant culture. Harmony has a background in marketing and design and has leveraged these skills to develop volunteer strategies and creative ministry approaches.

Harmony is a frequent speaker at national conferences on disability ministry, and is well known for her leadership role in Vineyard’s Summer of Service and Prom outreaches.

C4EC: You have a background in interior design and offer advice to churches on strategies for creating more inviting ministry environments inviting for families of kids with ADHD and other hidden disabilities.  What are some of your best tips?

HH: There are a lot of low to no budget things that you can do to foster an inclusive environment that sets everyone up for success.  Take a walk through your ministry environment and consider the following:

Lighting: Many commercial and public spaces utilize fluorescent lighting.  It’s cost effective and floods a space with light.  Unfortunately, though it is often very bright, especially when combined with other finishes (such as shiny waxed linoleum, etc.).  Bright lights can be overstimulating to some of the kids we serve and cause undue anxiety.  There are some easy fixes that allow you to properly light your space and create a more calming environment.

One option is to purchase inexpensive classroom light filters.  These  attach to the ceiling and filter the fluorescent light, creating a softer glow.  To find out more about these awesome accessories you can visit www.therapyshoppe.com and search “Classroom Light Filters”.  They run about $30 for a set of four.  There are lots of options ranging from solid white, colors and clouds so have fun with it!

Another easy fix is to have some of the bulbs removed to cut down on the amount of light.  This combined with traditional lamp light (think floor lamps and table lamps) can create a more soothing environment while still offering plenty of task lighting.

Flooring: What kind of flooring do you have in your classroom?  Is it carpet?  Is it a hard surface floor (tile, polished concrete, hardwood, etc.)?  We often have linoleum or some other hard surface flooring in children’s ministry areas because, as you well know, kiddos can be quite messy.  However, hard surface flooring can affect the acoustics of a room.  Think of it this way – if I have autism and noise or sound  cause me distress and physical pain and I go into a room where the kids are making noise that reverberates off the floor – I want outta there, and FAST!  Consider area rugs to help absorb some of the sound and create more comfortable floor seating for the kiddos during group times.  Window treatments can help but we’ll talk about that in a minute.

Carpet is always a nice option.  It makes for better floor seating space, but churches shy away from carpet because of the care, maintenance and cost of replacement should it become stained.  Carpet is still, generally, my favorite option due to the issue of acoustics.  Consider using carpet tiles.  Carpet tiles look just like regular carpet when installed, but if one area becomes soiled you can simply replace the damaged tiles and you are as good as new.

Window Treatments: Though this may seem silly to even point out I mention it because of some of the things I’ve seen while visiting churches around the country.  Be sure that there are no cords hanging down where the kids can reach them.  It’s not uncommon to think of this in the nursery with the little ones but this can be dangerous for older kids as well.  Cords, strings, etc. are not good if a child becomes agitated or aggressive.  Many psychiatric hospitals eliminate cords in patient rooms as a safety precaution and we are wise to follow suit.  Be conscious of safety risks in a room.  As harsh as it sounds, you have to ask yourself “could a child use this to harm themselves or others?”  Safety is our number one priority in creating a positive ministry environment for everyone.

Window treatments also impact the amount of light in the space.  Blinds are often a good choice because you can control the amount of light in the space.  Just be sure to secure the cords at a level that the kids cannot reach.

If you have a space where acoustics are a problem, window treatments are another place where fabrics can help to buffer the sound.

Coming on Friday: Harmony discusses use of wall color, wall decor and signage in ministry environments for kids with ADHD, along with thoughts for churches contemplating a new construction project or renovation.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
This entry was posted in ADHD, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Ministry Environments. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Harmony Hensley: Welcoming Ministry Environments for Kids With ADHD (Part One)

  1. AmyFentonLee says:

    Great post – very practical!


  2. Pingback: ADHD and Spiritual Development: Tying it All Together | Church4EveryChild

  3. Pingback: Good Finds! Special Needs Space Design Tips « The Inclusive Church

  4. Darlene says:

    I have a question. We first put in floor lampsin a sensory break room we have, but had to do away with them because they kept being knocked down. So, we put in wall lamps, only to discover that the lamps only take flourescent bulbs. My husband was wondering if those particular type of floursecent bulbs (rather than the long fourescent lighting that go in the ceiling) might be okay because it doesn’t make the same sound. But, I don’t know if it has that flickering that those who are visually sensitive can see. Do you know if the flourescent bulbs are okay? Thank you for your time.


  5. Darlene says:

    What a tremendous help! Thank you!


  6. Pingback: The Children’s Ministry Blog Patrol (October 2010) | Dad in the Middle

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