Blogger Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee

Sensory Storytime Progression

In early 2012 I decided I wanted to create a Sensory Storytime at my branch. After watching a few webinars, making contact with the Autism Society of Central Virginia, and talking with local teachers I began to design my program. I decided it would run in three week sessions on Saturdays and that I would offer it quarterly. It was designed for children on the spectrum ages of 3-6 years. I checked out our copy of The Out-Of-Sync Child Has Fun by Kranowitz and selected a variety of activities that I thought would work. Our Friends bought us awesome play items including no spill toddler bubbles.

Our first Sensory Storytime was in October 2012. I was blown away by the response! The most phenomenal part for me was watching parents talk with each other while their children played after storytime. They were all dealing with similar struggles and it was obviously a relief to talk with people who understood completely.

The October and February sessions were incredibly well attended. I followed up each session with a survey and got nothing but positive feedback from my families.  I ran this program for a full year and each session had fewer and fewer participants.  In October 2014 I could no longer justify the amount of time I dedicated to this program due to little to no attendance.

Soon after I made this hard decision I met Jessica who is a social worker for our county’s early intervention. She agreed to spend some time with me to revamp this program and evaluate why it had fizzled. We decided that the best idea would be to try to offer a weekly inclusive storytime with a sensory focus, open to any child between the ages of 1-5 years. Each program would have a presenter, an assistant and a representative of early intervention. We launched this program in January 2016.

This format has been very successful and feels more sustainable. Sensory Storytime’s goal is to be a welcoming, encouraging and supportive program that is smaller and more adaptive than other storytimes. Our group has been a mix of regulars, children who don’t thrive in other storytimes and children being served by early intervention. Having two other adults in the room to help parents and children navigate the program and troubleshoot issues has been immeasurably valuable.

Erin Lovelace works as a Children’s Librarian in Virginia and is a member of the Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers committee.

One comment

  1. Kathia Ibacache

    Thanks for your article. It looks like schedule regularity (weekly basis) might help people remember of the program.

    I bought sensory materials and created a sensory table for our Toddler Storytime, but we do not have a storytime for special needs clients. It is something we are considering.

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