Just wanted to send a big thank you for the sensory storytime this morning! It was terrific! … My four-year old LOVED it and I think I’m even more excited than he is as the event stirred up a lot of great ideas for activities I can do with my kids at home! Thank you thank you!!!
This wonderful feedback was given to me by a grateful mom after I did my first Sensory Storytime for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. She and her son have attended every sensory storytime since. I know from asking that her family had visited the library, but had never attended a storytime before this one.
Children with autism and other developmental disabilities live in your community, no matter its size. As welcoming, friendly, and inclusive as you are, families may still refrain from bringing their children to “regular” storytimes for fear of disrupting the group and getting “the look” from other parents. Offering a special program for these families is a powerful way to let them know they are welcome in your library.
I do a Sensory Storytime once a month on Saturday mornings for 2-5 year olds with autism and other developmental disabilities and their typically developing peers. In many ways, it is like a “regular” storytime; we sing songs, read books, and do fingerplays.
In other ways, it is unique. Children on the spectrum like to know what’s coming up, which is why it is imperative to use a visual schedule. A visual schedule is a simple pictorial representation of what will take place in storytime.
As we go through the program, I remove the symbols when each activity is complete.
I provide carpet tiles for the children to sit on. This helps them understand where they are expected to sit, and also encourages children to give each other space.
In order to truly make it a “sensory” storytime, I do activities that involve the senses, beyond just sight and sound. I use bubbles, which are a great way for children to work on oral motor skills. I also use stretchy Therabands (purchased online and cut into strips) and soft colorful scarves to provide sensory input.
I only do 2 books in each session, and every book is somehow interactive. It has flaps or can be somehow manipulated by the children (Press Here was a BIG hit), or I do a felt board to go along with the story. I never expect the children to just sit and listen; I always have some way for them to take turns and be involved in the story experience.
Repetition is very important with these kids. It gives them a chance to become familiar and therefore more successful at interacting with the songs and fingerplays. For this reason, I change the books each month, but keep the songs and fingerplay the same.
Here’s my Sensory Storytime schedule:
1) Welcome song (sing hello to each child)
2) Shirt song (I got this great idea from Barbara Klipper’s presentation at ALA)
5) Scarf play to music (on CD player or sung by the group)
6) Therabands (sticky bubblegum song — therabands “stick” to parts of their bodies)
8) Goodbye song (sing goodbye to group)
I created a simple feedback survey and ask parents to fill it out after storytime. This is how I got the wonderful “thank you” at the top of this post. It’s important for me to find out whom my storytime is reaching and if I am fulfilling my goal of bringing new families into the library or bringing families to storytime for the first time.
Do you offer a Sensory Storytime at your library? Please share what works for you!
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