We want to welcome children of all abilities to our VBS programs because we know that each child is made in God’s image and needs to hear about their Creator and Savior. And we want to be sure to include all children in our classes.
We want all children to feel welcome and be able to learn from God’s Word!
Some children who attend your VBS, however, may need a quiet space to decompress or learn away from the noise and enthusiasm of the other children. This is where a separate sensory room (or rooms) is appropriate. We want all children to feel welcome and be able to learn from God’s Word! Also, parents will feel more comfortable bringing a child who may have unique needs if they know the church is prepared with both a special room and dedicated staff. Here’s how one church created a sensory room, making their VBS friendly to children of all abilities:
We started having a special needs/sensory room about four years ago, because we have a child in our church who has severe autism, so when he became the age to participate, we wanted to make sure he had a place! Even if it was only one child, there was a need for that class. When we told his parents about the class, I remember his mother crying because he had never been able to participate in anything like that before! That whole first week I would catch his mom and dad checking on him and just being so filled with joy! So that's why we do it, now here is how we do it!
We advertise to our local schools with flyers, and also make a special post on our Facebook page specifically about our sensory class. I have added sensory/special needs to the online registration.
There is one wing of our church we use specifically for the class. It's a long hallway where some of our Sunday School classes are located and is also close to an outside door so the children in that class can go outside without being overwhelmed by having to go through the whole church just to get outside.We use four Sunday school rooms total so they still rotate rooms, but on a smaller scale.
We use four Sunday school rooms total so they still rotate rooms, but on a smaller scale. They have one room for the lesson with bean bag chairs, cushions, sensory items that we make (you can find ideas on Pinterest), and anything else we could think of to make it feel comfortable and cozy! We do decorate this room as well. Then we have a music room, craft room, and a room for games. We have a leader in each of those rooms as well who does all things pertaining to that class, that way the adults with the sensory class can focus on the child's needs instead of teaching.
We serve a meal nightly and this class eats first while the rest of the classes are doing opening ceremonies. They also have free time where they can go outside and we have a bubble machine, and use bubble wands, in addition to other fun things we plan.
We try to do a 2:1 teacher to student ratio, and there are always people who want to help with this class!
We love to see churches reaching out and including all children in their VBS program. So many parents appreciate the extra effort made to help their children have a wonderful time. Find more tips for how to reach all children with your VBS in our Special Needs Supplement (part of the online digital library).