Sen­sory pro­gram­ming starts at the pub­lic li­brary

Lethbridge Herald - - GREAT READS SATURDAY BOOKS - Sub­mit­ted by Leth­bridge Pub­lic Li­brary

In our never-end­ing quest to be in­clu­sive and meet com­mu­nity needs, our Chil­dren’s Ser­vices de­part­ment un­der­took a very spe­cial project, and is proud to in­tro­duce our Sen­sory Bas­kets and Sen­sory Kits.

Autism has a large spec­trum, and is very in­di­vid­ual; cus­tomiza­tion and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion are crit­i­cal to find­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that work best. So, what’s a li­brary to do?

At the Leth­bridge Pub­lic Li­brary (LPL), we con­nect with our com­mu­nity, and staff in our Chil­dren’s Ser­vices de­part­ment worked with a num­ber of par­ents who have chil­dren with autism to find out what their con­cerns were and what they needed from us. Con­cern for a child is com­mon to all par­ents, and we do our best to re­as­sure them that they are not alone. The li­brary is a safe, wel­com­ing space, and we have the re­sources to sup­port them.

One of the chal­lenges par­ents iden­ti­fied was their re­luc­tance to bring their chil­dren to our pro­grams be­cause of anx­i­ety over how a child would re­act, and how other par­ents and chil­dren may re­act to be­hav­iour that can be un­pre­dictable. Our staff knew about adap­tive equip­ment used in schools, so we con­nected with other com­mu­nity groups that could ad­vise us on the types of equip­ment we could start with at the li­brary. We had a cou­ple big, empty bas­kets just wait­ing to be used, we just needed to fill them! We pur­chased wig­gle cush­ions, lap pads, and sets of noise­can­celling head­phones, and now if par­ents want to use one or more of the items dur­ing our sto­ry­times, at The Cross­ings Branch or Main Branch, all they need to do is grab from the bas­kets.

In fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion with par­ents and com­mu­nity part­ners we saw the need to pro­vide par­ents with equip­ment they could also take home to try out. From that our sen­sory kits were born. Each kit, avail­able at the Main Branch, has four ma­nip­u­la­tives and are based on themes. For ex­am­ple, the “Night Time” themed kit has a white noise ma­chine, a Teach Me Time clock, a vi­brat­ing snake, and laser stars. Par­ents can check this kit out, take the items home, and find out what works for their child. Other themes in­clude “Po­si­tion­ingMo­bil­ity,” “Calm­ing,” “Timers,” “Au­di­tory Pro­cess­ing,” “Fid­gets,” and “Fine Mo­tor.”

We’re also ex­cited to in­tro­duce the pro­gram­ming ideas that have come from these con­ver­sa­tions, and now of­fer a Sen­sory Sto­ry­time and li­brary visit sto­ry­boards.

Sen­sory Sto­ry­time is a mod­i­fied early lit­er­acy sto­ry­time. It is held at the Main Branch, The­atre Gallery, and is an in­ter­ac­tive pro­gram for chil­dren with autism and other de­vel­op­men­tal dif­fer­ences. A sen­sory bas­ket is also on hand, as well as a calm­ing cor­ner, re­duced light lev­els, and we will have com­mu­nity part­ners avail­able to talk about their re­lated pro­grams.

We’ve also cre­ated a se­ries of so­cial sto­ries. These are “real life” pic­tures put to­gether in a nar­ra­tive out­lin­ing what to ex­pect when you visit the Li­brary. See­ing and hear­ing about the ex­pe­ri­ence in ad­vance al­le­vi­ates anx­i­ety and cre­ates fa­mil­iar­ity. These are avail­able for pick up at both the Main Branch and The Cross­ings Branch.

For more in­for­ma­tion about these re­sources, and Sen­sory Sto­ry­time, con­tact our Chil­dren’s Ser­vices de­part­ment, or come visit and try them out for your­self. The Bitty Bot­tom wig­gle cush­ion is es­pe­cially fun!

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