Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility - video now available

Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility - video now available

Dr Naomi Graham, wearing overalls with 'Growing Hope' written on the front, stands smiling in front of a recently scrubbed chalk blackboard

The video from our online event 'Sensory Processing and Church Accessibility' with Dr Naomi Graham of Growing Hope is now available on YouTube (@TTRChangesLives): just click the play button on the 'Watch on YouTube' video below.

We were delighted to welcome Naomi to speak, as she took us through a whole range of practical and thoughtful suggestions for using the senses in church activities, and well as including everyone's different sensory processing strategies. 

If you don't have time to watch it all (talk 25 mins. questions 18 mins), then below the video link is a summary of what Naomi said.

Here are the resources Naomi mentions in her talk, plus some extra thoughts about sensory processing from the questions submitted in the session...

Summary of the talk: Making Sense of our Senses 

Naomi explained that Growing Hope works with children with additional needs. She shared how everyone likes to start the day with a sense of calm. However, people with additional needs may find it difficult to find the calm they need, as they can struggle to process the input from their senses. 

Naomi used stories from the Bible and her own experience to explain how God speaks through each of 8 senses – the usual five, plus balance, body awareness, and internal sense – which includes our sense of God. She emphasised the importance of understanding each person’s sensory experience – including children with additional needs in the church – and seeing everyone as Jesus sees them.

Naomi got participants to try sensory processing experiments, such as writing a sentence without your feet touching the floor; these brought alive how much our senses affect us. She explained how particular sensory experiences can be calming or alerting – such as loud or quiet noises, and geometric or irregular patterns. But Naomi explained it’s important to ask each individual what helps them – she shared an ‘about me’ form, that people can fill in with their sensory preferences – such as whether they need a quiet space, or struggle to sit still. We heard how the senses can be used to enhance worship – including the huge boost to concentration created by movement, through ‘body awareness’; as well as the importance of using images and objects as well as words, to help everyone understand.

During the discussion time, people showed enthusiasm about using sensory experiences within their churches, and raised questions which Naomi answered later. A poll of those present showed great support for disability inclusion in church, but there is a great need for sensory processing information and resources, with 80% asking for these. Through the Roof hopes to help with this in future!

Naomi suggested simple tips for churches, including quick wins such as providing ear defenders and pipe cleaners as simple fidget toys. She explained how vital church support can be for families and children with additional needs, including the strong link between trauma and sensory processing issues, with movement and physical activity helping heal and calm. So it is important that we educate the church not to judge people for using fidget toys or moving around. Growing Hope provide free therapy to children with additional needs, as well as supporting parents, carers and siblings. Follow this link to read the story of Growing Hope in Naomi’s blog.

Brenda Murray, one of Through the Roof's new Regional Roofbreaker Co-ordinators who helped facilitate the event, said “We look forward to making connections with all those who attended to ensure people have the resources so everyone can be part of God’s family.”