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Maryville, TN: 2 schools get "calming spaces" for kids with autism/emotional needs

Two elementary schools in Blount County now have the extra tools to help students with learning disabilities and/or emotional needs thanks to one nonprofit that has picked up where it left off mid-pandemic. Kingdom Design Ministries and its founder, Missy Johnson, have been providing dream room makeovers and renovations for going on 13 years, mostly in residential settings. The nonprofit does this at no cost to recipients. But in 2020, that residential side of the work ceased temporarily when COVID-19 gripped the world…. The needs, Johnson explained, were for a space that could be used for children with autism or other conditions who occasionally need a place to de-escalate and feel safe. She said one of the principals told her they have four autistic children who can benefit from having that down time. Anxiety among children is at an all-time high, Johnson said research shows. Some of that starts at home and then manifests itself in schools, she said. Where there is a need… “This wasn’t just a special education classroom,” Johnson explained. “It is a calming and sensory room for kids with emotional needs or learning disabilities like autism. This room can be used for lots more students.” Both rooms are divided into four quadrants, Johnson said. One is the calming area, one is designed to be a reading space while a third is for sensory stimulation. The fourth quadrant is a swing that hangs from the ceiling. The whole goal was to give teachers at the two schools a place they can take students for a brief time and then re-enter their regular classroom. There are breathing balls to help students calm their breathing and weighted blankets to make them feel safe and protected….. “We are able to serve more members of the community for many years,” Johnson said. “With these legacy projects, we are impacting all of those kids and kids in the future.”


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