Guest Blogger

Super Sensory Backpacks!

Logo for Sensory Backpack

The idea for a Sensory Backpack collection was born during a meeting between Frisco Public Library’s (FPL) Youth Services staff and Frisco ISD’s Parent Trainer, Colleen Kugler. We decided to use collections to help students with special needs feel welcome at FPL. Our guru on everything regarding students with special needs, Colleen also manages a Parent Sanctuary and Lending Library; this treasure trove of books, tip sheets, idea notebooks, and more were at our fingertips to help us create our Sensory Backpack (SB) collection. We identified our top themes as Anxiety, Calm Down, Focus, and Social Skills. We could not have created this collection (or succeeded at any of our sensory endeavors) without Colleen’s expertise and input. If you take nothing else away from this post, please consider the value of forging a relationship with your school district’s Special Education experts.

We knew each backpack needed books, possibly a DVD or CD, and several activities—some directed at the student and at least one speaking to the caregiver. Based on FISD’s recommendations, we purchased three or four excellent book titles (many from the Julia Cook collection) for each theme, as well as yoga DVDs for the Anxiety and Calm Down themes. We turned to Stacy’s Sensory Solutions for interactive sensory items for students to manipulate. “Anxiety” features an auditory calm toy (small rain stick or gentle maraca), a visual calm toy (spiral glitter wand), and a stress release item (snowball squeezer). Finally, we added activity sheets, many of which were ready to go thanks to the Parent Sanctuary’s resources. The rest we adapted from various online sources or created ourselves.

Image of contents of Calm Down Backpack
Calm Down Backpack
Contents page for Calm Down Backpack
Contents page for Calm Down Backpack

We realized there was no reason to label this collection for a particular age or grade range. We decided to simply label the backpacks as containing choking hazards and “unsuitable for children under 3.” We also didn’t limit it to one kind of student or community. All students can benefit from learning and practicing social skills, homework focus, and strategies for handling difficult emotions.

Logo for Sensory Backpack
Sensory Backpacks Logo/Web Banner copyright FPL 2016

To market the collection we created a sample backpack for our sensory story times and outreach events. We brought the backpack to the FISD Parent Training Night where organizations talk to parents about services for their students with special needs. This January, the backpacks were featured in THRIVE, a local magazine for families living with learning differences and special needs. The SB collection was also covered in a presentation at the TLA 2017 annual conference.

What do our patrons think about the collection? They love it!  The SB shelves are almost always empty. This collection is successful in part because we don’t limit the audience; any child can reap its benefits. The backpacks are still growing in popularity, but how are they holding up physically? You guessed it, things will break or go missing. Usually it’s just a write-and-wipe activity or expo marker that doesn’t get returned.  We also find ourselves performing toy repair when a sensory item breaks. More costly is backpack replacement when zippers break.

The SB collection is highly successful. With the help of Colleen Kugler and the FISD Parent Training team, we plan to add even more themes to help students.

Sensory Backpack shelves
Sensory Backpack Shelves

All images courtesy of Frisco Public Library

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Today’s guest bloggers are Bonnie Barber and Yvette Mendez. Bonnie is a Senior Librarian and Yvette is a Librarian in the Youth Services department of the Frisco Public Library. Contact them for more information at bbarber@friscotexas.gov and ymendez@friscotexas.gov.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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

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