As a teen ages out of children’s ministry and into a traditional student ministry environment consider the established environment. Most student ministry environments pride themselves on looking, feeling, and sounding different than the children’s ministry environments that came before them. Typical children’s ministry environments are structured, colorful, and secured. Typical student ministry environments are more free flowing, darker, and louder.
Stimulus that teens affected by disability receive from their environments can have a profound impact on them. The free flowing, loud, and less structured environment of student ministry can be hard for some teens affected by disability to integrate into. We must acknowledge that all teens affected by disability are individuals and they will all react differently to the stimulus they receive. Extreme flashing lights may cause a teen to either have a seizure or go running out the doors. While others may love and thrive off the loud music. It is the physical stimulus that they receive from the beat of the music that they come to crave. Now after receiving the stimulation it may be difficult to transition into a smaller group environment that typically follows the high energy large group environment. That’s why a clear set of expectations and a communication plan are so important before the teen ever enters the environment.
The answer is not to abolish over stimulation. The answer is equipping everyone with the tools necessary to be successful. That includes staff, volunteers, families, and all teens including those affected by disability.