Guest Blogger

Transforming Sensory Storytime Lemons into Sensory Kit Lemonade

In November 2014, my assistant director asked me if I’d ever heard of a special needs storytime. I responded, perhaps overenthusiastically, with the notes and links I had been gathering for 6 months. We decided we wanted to start a Sensory Storytime at our largest branch. We knew we had families with children on the spectrum in our community; some came to the library, some didn’t. We read all the resources we could get our hands on (including these excellent resources here, here, and here). We asked some of our key donors to help buy sensory toys as a part of our annual end-of-year appeal. We observed a sensory storytime at a library on the other side of Michigan in January. That spring, we steadily cultivated relationships with (semi) nearby parent support groups, local therapy clinics, the local university’s collaborative autism center, county public health, and teachers who worked in…

Blogger Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers

Serving Children with Disabilities in Libraries: A Beginner’s Guide

Where should I begin? This can sometimes be the most challenging part about developing library services to children with disabilities.  In fact, the most common question I receive is about where to start.  While there isn’t a one-stop-shop when it comes to expanding your knowledge in this area, I’m pleased to say that there is a plethora of resources out there that can help you on your journey to becoming an advocate for children with disabilities.  Basically, what that means is that the first step is to learn.  And you’re in luck–here are some of my favorite resources to help you do just that!

Blogger Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers

A Special Needs Summer?

Families that include those with special needs can sometimes struggle with finding inclusive programming. Librarians often feel pressure to provide programming exclusively for special populations. But that’s not necessarily the case. Just having an open and welcoming atmosphere can be all that it takes to make your current programs accessible for everyone.  Are you doing what you can to offer programs for all children? Don’t know where to start? As a programmer, ask yourself the following questions: The location of the program- Are the rooms bright and cheerful without being overwhelming with too many sights and sounds? A calm environment is important for children with sensory issues. Is light distributed evenly? This is important for children with low vision. Is the room accessible and clutter free, with clear pathways? Most mobility equipment requires a four to five foot turning radius. Are there a variety of seating options? Large bolsters and…

Blogger Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers

Professional Resources for Learning About Inclusive Play

So much learning happens through play. Play can help children practice language, motor skills, problem-solving skills and social skills. Many of our libraries may already include free play as part of our storytime programs for young children to support this growth. We may not realize it, though, but there are many barriers to play that exist for children with special needs.  Some of the kids in our communities may not be equipped with the skills to play without accommodations or support. So it’s important that we develop strategies to be inclusive and enable access to play for all. Coming up with accessible and inclusive play-based activities and games for storytime programs can be a challenge if you do not have a background in occupational therapy or special education. Thankfully, there are a variety of up to date and valuable resources at our disposal to help us learn about inclusive play-based…

Blogger Angela Reynolds

Trying something new

A few months back I saw a photo from Hennepin County Library on Instagram. It showed how much fun they had at their Sensitive Family Time — a time for families living with autism to explore the library. As I was looking for a way to partner with our local Autism Centre, I jumped on this fantastic idea. After a few phone calls and emails, we had a date. We opened one of our branches for 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon, just for these families. The families had signed up in advance with the Autism Centre, so we knew who to expect. Staff from their centre attended, and welcomed the families. Our staff were on hand to show them around the library, read  stories, and get them signed up for library cards. We had some toys out (I had these already from storytime), and just let the kids roam…