Sensory programming starts at the 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!