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Seating strategies.JPG
Pads for sitting

Take some time to think about your specific setting including the physical, sensory and social environments – this will look different depending on your church / organisation and what groups are offered. Are you able to adapt the environment? Is there something contributing to sensory overload or stress that you can take out or reduce? Are there supports that you can add?

  • Think about the physical structure of the environment e.g. zoning space, having functional areas with clearly defined boundaries e.g. using masking tape, mats, colour-coding tables or using book shelves/boards to zone areas. The aim is for individuals to associate activities with specific areas or places e.g. reading when sitting on the mat; juice / snack at the table.  As much as possible try to keep things organised and in a consistent place e.g. bibles all kept in the same box in the same location.

  • Preparation is key – let the person know if there are changes to the environment e.g. are there new lights? Is it Christmas / Easter etc and the entire church has been transformed or re-arranged?

  • It is necessary that individuals are able to participate in a wide range of sensory experiences, however it is important that this is done in a planned and sensitive way. The individual may engage best in a setting where sensory and other stimulation can be reduced or controlled.

  • What can you see? Are there new bright fluorescent lights? Or is it too dark? Some places may have stained glass windows, or detailed patterns on the walls/floor providing interesting patterns of light play. This could be of interest to some, but disturb others. Are visual supports needed for children e.g. line on the floor to show where to line up or a ‘no’ symbol on the door into the main church? If there are busy noticeboards with a million leaflets – could these be covered e.g. using a display board or black curtain over them? A visual schedule for what is going to happen during kids church / youth fellowship etc can be helpful.

  • What can you hear? Is there too much background noise or feedback from the speakers? Try to keep auditory distractions to a minimum where possible (close doors/windows/turn off radios). Some background noise might be helpful to block out other sounds, however be aware that it might be over whelming. Could the individual keep headphones / earplugs in if an activity or part of a service is too noisy? It can be worthwhile giving a warning if there is going to be a known loud sound e.g. testing smoke alarm or a particularly loud game. Can you offer alternatives such as hand towels to the loud hand drier in the toilet?

  • What can you smell? Some pleasant (coffee / baked cake) or other not so much (toilets / bleach)? It might be helpful to open windows to air the space.

  • Think about the activity and consider the task demand – is it too challenging or difficult? Or too easy? Can you adapt the task to make it ‘just right’? Are tasks predictable or novel? It is important for individuals to understanding why they are doing something. Perhaps starting the activity so the young person just has to finish it.

  • Is there a quiet or chill out area – a place where the child can go to calm down if feeling overwhelmed. It should be the same place each time. Some spaces have a bean bag, softer lighting or use of fidget items. Be aware this shouldn’t be filled with an individual’s favourite things/special interests nor should it be used as punishment.

  • Sense of touch – handshakes on the way in and way out? Squashed into a pew? Allow some extra space and have a think about positioning – they may prefer to be at the front close to a leader or at the back so they can see what’s happening ahead of them. When sitting in groups, are they ‘blocked in’? If there are messy games, always ask a child if they want to have a go, try alternatives (e.g. cellotape instead of PVA) or offer to assist if needed. Is it too hot or crowded?

  • Does the individual find it hard to sit still or do they seek out lots of movement? Are they able to stand or sit on a beanbag at the back of the group during the talk rather than having to sit on a chair? Can opportunities for movement be provided e.g. offer that they could help stack the chairs or give out the Bibles?

  • Consider the social aspect of the environment. Think about the quality of the relationships they have with other people in the setting – are there strangers or familiar people? How many people? Are there social expectations and is the individual aware of these e.g. shaking hands; games involving close proximity?

  • Think about the order of activities e.g. are all the physical activities at the start then young people have to sit for 45min? Could you add a calming activity just before a thinking activity? Can you have a familiar activity before a new or challenging one?

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