By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
One Benson church is making sure everyone can have the opportunity to worship, even if it involves a special needs child.
Outreach Church, newly opened at 603 S. Wall St. in Benson, included a room specially designed to make sure special needs children had a place to go and play or just unwind from a stressful situation.
“What we realized was the normal class that we would have, both the classroom itself and the teachings, would not blend well with that type of child,” said Beverly Withrow, wife of Outreach Pastor Larry Withrow. “Then we realized that we didn’t know any church anywhere in Benson that was offering sensory classrooms for special needs children.”
The special room has been a blessing to Cindy Dixon, who has a child diagnosed with upper spectrum sustism. Her son, Eli — as well most of the other children — is very fond of the room and its contents, according to his mother.
“He does, they all do, special needs or not,” she said with a grin. “They all love this room.”
Ms. Dixon is one of three church members who are trained in helping special needs children who are on hand to make sure every child and their family has a chance to find a place to belong in the church.
“When we started Outreach, we wanted to See Special Needs, Page 3
The Outreach Church, located at 603 S. Wall St. in Benson, has created a special needs room for children with autism and other challenges. Above, 5-year-old Eli Dixon enjoys the handbuilt activity center.
Daily Record Photo/Rick Curl
“We, as a church, want to make sure that families that normally wouldn’t be able to come to church can.”
— Cindy Dixon, instructor Special Needs
Continued From Page One
reach everybody,” Ms. Dixon said. “So we focus hard on seniors and special needs. We, as a church, want to make sure that families that normally wouldn’t be able to come to church can. If there’s somebody in the community not attending church because they don’t feel like they can, because they don’t think there’s a place for the special needs child.”
The room is filled with items that help children with autism and other developmental disabilities find a way to do everything from turn a door knob to sit in a place where they can find quiet without being disrupted.
Included are things such as a tube for the kids to crawl through, a trampoline and a specially created sensory board that contains faucet knobs, switches, a swing, blocks and other items to help with any special interest a child with disabilities might find desireable.
Additionally, there are several other items such as books, desks and even plastic wheeled blocks. There’s also a special area where children who feel a need to take in some silence can sit and unwind.
“The classroom is very different than a normal classroom,” Mrs. Withrow said. “The things that are in that classroom are just for disabled or challenged children.”
The room, which was created less than two months ago, was designed and filled with donations of time and items.
“We actually had somebody make a generous donation just for our special needs room,” Ms. Dixon said.
“So, we were able to purchase a lot of stuff with that money, there’s donated stuff and things made by hand,” she said.
Mrs. Withrow says the room has become a place where the children it’s designed for make their first stop while mom and dad attend Sunday School.
She gives the example of one 5-year-old girl with autism who was unable to communicate with others. Mrs. Withrow said the little girl was always uncomfortable being around other people.
Now, Mrs. Withrow says, since the little girl has discovered the sensory room, she heads for it as soon as the family arrives.
“Since we’ve set up this sensory classroom she’s just as content as can be,” Mrs. Withrow said. “When she comes to church Sunday morning, that’s right where she heads, that classroom. Because the things in there make her feel comfortable and satisfied.”
Mrs. Withrow says the entire church has taken quite well to the new room. She says it’s quickly become another part of the church’s mission. She explained that when church first begins all members of the church, even the kids, stay in the worship center to sing before they go to Sunday school classes.
“Some of these children choose to jump up and down or play ball or whatever,” Mrs. Withrow said. “Our church people have accepted that, they do it because they can’t sit and enjoy the services because of their challenges. So the whole church has adapted to the special needs and it’s been so interesting to watch.”
Ms. Dixon said the caring doesn’t stop with just taking care of the children. She stresses the church wants to help anyone who has any kind of disability that might need even a little assistance, to feel comfortable and welcome.
“We also really want to accomodate any person, adult or otherwise, with special needs,” she said. “Whether it’s transportation or if there’s any reason somebody feels they might be comfortable in church we want to welcome them.”