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Brecksville United Methodist Church offers comfortable, inviting environment for those who are sensory challenged

November 14, 2018

Brecksville United Methodist Church offers comfortable, inviting environment for those who are sensory challenged

BRECKSVILLE, Ohio -- Brecksville United Methodist Church has been an active part of the community for more than 200 years. Not only does the church offer Sunday worship services, but also concerts, classes and community events that are open to the public.

Because of their ongoing commitment to the community, the congregants wanted to be sure that all people can benefit from their offerings -- including people who have sight, sound, touch and smell sensory-processing issues.

This realization came about from their office manager, Melanie Smith. She noticed that one of their Sunday School children who is on the autism spectrum was having some difficulties. Plus, she has two nieces who are autistic and have similar challenges.

Then she noticed that large local venues in Northeast Ohio, such as Progressive Field and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, provide special services to people who have sensory-processing issues. So she decided to do some digging and discovered KultureCity.

KultureCity is a non-profit organization recognized nationwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs, not just those with autism.

After meeting with KultureCity, Smith and the Rev. Clark Stein, pastor of Brecksville United Methodist Church, decided that this was something they would like to offer their parishioners, as well as the Brecksville community and people from the surrounding areas who frequent their events and programs.

The church has partnered with KultureCity and is now Certified Sensory Inclusive. This new initiative will promote an accommodating and positive experience for everyone who visits the church -- for worship, a concert, a class or a community event.

Sensory sensitivities and challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals who have autism, dementia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise.

With its new certification, Brecksville United Methodist Church is better prepared to assist those with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when they visit the church.

“To know that you soon will be able to see families in worship, a true community experience, with their loved ones who have a sensory challenge and who were not able to previously attend, is truly a heartwarming moment,” said KultureCity Executive Director Traci Johnson.

“Our communities are what shapes our lives, and to know that Brecksville United Methodist Church is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing,” Johnson said. 

To become certified, church staff and volunteers were trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize those with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory-overload situation.

Sensory bags equipped with noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads are available to anyone at the church who may feel overwhelmed by the environment.

A dedicated sensory room, which is being designed with input from medical professionals, is in the works for those who may need a quieter and more secure environment.

In the past year alone, KultureCity has created several sensory-inclusive venues and events, including the NFL Pro Bowl, NFL Super Bowl, 16 NBA arenas, five NFL stadiums, five NHL arenas and countless zoos, science centers and aquariums across the nation.

Northeast Ohio organizations partnering with KultureCity include Akron Children’s Museum, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Akron Zoo, Progressive Field-Cleveland Indians and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Although the sensory bags have only been available for a few weeks at the church, the response has been very positive, not only from church members, but also from the community.

To learn more about how Brecksville United Methodist Church is sensory inclusive, contact Melanie Smith at 440-526-8938, office@brecksvilleumc.com. The church is located at 65 Public Square, Brecksville.

To learn more about how your organization can be sensory inclusive, contact KultureCity at Kulturecity.org.

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