Guest Blogger

Sensory Storytime: Preschool Programming That Makes Sense for Children With Autism

Four times during October and November 2011, I’ll be offering a webinar on this topic for ALSC. If you’re debating whether or not to register for the webinar, I hope the following will help you decide.

So, what is this all about? Here is the backstory:

In early 2009 I was approached by the director of an organization in my community and asked to write a grant application for a library program that would serve kids with autism along with their “neurotypical” peers. In response, I designed a version of Sensory Storytime, and was awarded funding of more than $6,000.00 to start the program at The Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT.

We began to offer this grant-funded program in the fall of 2009, and we are now beginning our third year. Designing this program allowed me to combine two things I knew well; library service for children and children with autism. Both of my sons have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and I have had over 20 years of experience working with them and a number of professionals in the field. That personal experience has influenced my library work, and for a decade I have been active in promoting disability awareness and accessibility for people with disabilities in libraries. I’ve done a lot of different things; currently I’m on the Schneider Family Book Award jury, and I serve as the ALSC representative to the ALA Accessibility Assembly.

Once I became involved in library services to children with disabilities, I became very interested in what other libraries were doing. Having collected some information and done some reading I was ready when I was approached and asked to write the grant proposal. My supervisor Caroline Ward wondered what type of program we should offer and I immediately had an answer…”Sensory Storytime”. And so I set out to create a version of the program that included what I knew would work with these kids and also fit into a public library setting.

After starting our program I connected with Tricia Bohanon Twarogowski, whose multi-part blog for ALSC describes the evolution of her own storytime program for children with autism. She and I shared a commitment to spreading the word about these programs, and I applied to sponsor a session at Annual in 2011. The result was a panel comprised of Tricia, Ellen Fader from Multnomah, a local occupational therapist from Louisiana and me. The occupational therapist presented the theoretical basis for Sensory Storytime programs and the librarians presented our different program models.

The ALSC committee Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers (LSSPCC), sponsored the program and created a community on ALA Connect called Serving Children With Autism so librarians who are interested in this topic could continue the conversation. The presentations and handouts from the ALA session are available there, but seeing a handout cannot substitute for an interactive experience of the material.

Hence, the webinar.

It is designed to offer at least some of the material from the session at Annual in another format for those who couldn’t attend the conference and those who were in New Orleans but who missed the session because of conflicting commitments.

It is also for children’s librarians who never thought about providing an adapted storytime before:

  • If you’ve ever had the parent of a child with autism ask you if your storytime program is appropriate for their child and you didn’t know what to say…this webinar is for you.
  • If you’ve ever had a child with autism try to participate in your regular program, seen that child unable to keep up with the activities or the behavioral expectations, and not had an alternative to offer them…this webinar is for you.
  • If you’ve been thinking about offering a program and you don’t know where to start… this webinar is for you.
  • If you want to know how the items below fit into a preschool library program…this webinar is for you.

And if you’re already offering programming for the young children with autism in your community and you want to experience a different model…this webinar is for you also.

You’ll hang up knowing the answer to at least some of your questions and connected to a community of librarians who share your interest in adaptive storytime programming.

If this sounds good to you, I look forward to spending time with you on the ALSC webinar: Sensory Storytime: Preschool Programming That Works for Kids With Autism.

For more details and how to register:

Our guest blogger today is Barbara Klipper, Youth Services Librarian at The Ferguson Library, in Stamford, Connecticut. Barbara can be contacted at

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

One comment

  1. Tricia Bohanon Twarogowski

    I am honored to be mentioned in this post, but I wanted to clarify that my programs were (and are) open not only to those individuals with autism but also to all those with other special needs and disabilities. I’d be happy to address additional questions; you can feel free to email me at

    Have a wonderful webinar experience, Barbara!

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