Blogger Angela Reynolds

Trying something new

playing with sensory balls
Playing with sensory balls

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 around. They played, I read a few books, they enjoyed themselves. Many of the families had never taken their child to the library before– they feared disruptive behavior and did not want to cause a scene. The kids were great — once they found out that the library was a safe, welcoming place, they had a grand time. And so did I. I tried something outside my comfort zone, something I really knew nothing about other than I knew there were families that wanted to use the library but maybe felt uncomfortable doing so.

Program room is set up
Program room is set up

We’ve got another one in the works, and I look forward to it. It was such a simple idea, such an easy way to reach out. I have to thank Hennepin County Library for their great program, and for graciously allowing me to borrow their idea and run with it. Try something new. It just might be worth it.

6 comments

  1. Natalie

    Sensitive family time at the library was fantastic! Thank you so very much for having us! Some people don’t realize how isolating it can be when you have a child with special needs, we don’t get out much. A big reason for that is because my son’s behaviour isn’t always socially acceptable, it can be very uncomfortable for him, and us parents too. Anytime we take him anywhere, I worry about what will happen, after you’re child has had as many public meltdowns as mine has, you’d be a little anxious too. I was even worried as I was walking up to the library doors that day, but once we were there, I knew that I had nothing to worry about. All of the staff were amazing! They greeted us with smiles, and helped us find books that my son was interested in. The story time, and awesome sensory toys were a huge hit! We were very happy to be there, and most importantly to us, we felt comfortable and accepted. We can’t wait to go back. Thank you for everything!! 🙂

  2. Liz Mason-Squires

    Thank you for opening your doors to us! My daughter had a blast:) I can’t express in words how special this was!

    The Squires Family

  3. Ashley Waring

    I love this idea!! Thank you for writing about it.

  4. Holly Jin

    Love it! Thank you, Hennepin County, for sharing the original idea and to Angela for going for it! You remind us that breaking down barriers to access is easy when we have great mentors, a little bit of courage, and a heart full of compassion.

  5. Angela Reynolds

    Thank you for your kind responses! I am learning as I go. I found this great website which is really helping– just found it yesterday. Check it out! http://www.librariesandautism.org/

  6. Barbara Klipper

    Angela, thanks for trying this out, even though it was a little outside your comfort zone at first. And thanks also for sharing it in an ALSC blog post. You’re the best!
    I hope your experience inspires others to try programming for these kids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *