Thursday, November 16, 2017

Outreach: "Mid-Fall Favorites" Sensory Story Time

Ed and I were back at Wing Lake Developmental Center today and we brought some "mid-fall favorites" with us. We visited two groups of students, ages 3 - 26 years, with multiple disabilities. To ensure visibility for everyone, many in wheel chairs or specially adaptive seating, we scan the books and project them from a laptop.

Here's the plan:

Welcome: "Let's talk about things that happen in the fall. What do you like about the fall? (cider mills? cider mill donuts?!) Look out the window. What is happening to the leaves on the trees outside? Do you like the cooler air? What holiday is coming up next week? (Thanksgiving! What's your favorite food at Thanksgiving dinner?)"

Song: "The Leaves on the Trees"
(tune: "Wheels on the Bus")
The leaves on the trees turn orange and brown,
orange and brown, orange and brown.
The leaves on the trees turn orange and brown all over town.

The leaves on the trees come tumbling down,
tumbling down, tumbling down.
The leaves on the trees come tumbling down all over town.

The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish
swish, swish, swish
swish, swish, swish.
The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish
all over town.

Story: In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes
One of my new favorite fall stories! Beautiful "age respectful" illustrations and a simple story, with many points to add sensory experiences, made this a great choice for these students. We brought in a plush squirrel (to feel the frisky squirrel's tail), pumpkins (from the pumpkin patch), apples (the ones hanging in the tree "like ornaments"), dry leaves (from the leaf pile that the girl and her dog were playing in), and bags of artificial snow (that the squirrel sees falling outside his tree at the end). We take these items around to each student to touch/feel/smell. Some students have low or no vision, so these tactile and scented experiences (we loved smelling the apples!) make the story more engaging and help to reinforce comprehension. As we are reading, we also describe the illustrations in the story so everyone can "see."

Flannel rhyme: "Five Little Leaves"
Five little leaves so bright and gay
were dancing about on a tree one day.
The wind came blowing through town
and one little leaf came tumbling down.
(keep counting down until all leaves have fallen)
(source: unknown)

Non-fiction picture book: Thanksgiving by Rebecca Pettiford
This simple picture book has great photograph illustrations of all the things we might see/hear/taste at Thanksgiving!

Song: "If You're Thankful and You Know It"
If you're thankful and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're thankful and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're thankful and you know it,
then your face will surely show it.
If you're thankful and you know it, clap your hands.
(can repeat with other actions, depending on audience abilities)

Sensory craft: "Squished paint autumn trees"
We drew tree outlines on gallon-size sealable bags, squeezed drops of fall-colored, washable tempera paints inside and sealed the bags. Students loved "smoooshing" and smoothing the squishy colors inside to turn their tree into a beautiful autumn tree. This is a great craft for all abilities.
(source: Crafts on Sea)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

SENSEational Story Time: "Fall for Change"

Last Saturday we explored the changes that we might see in the fall: What are some changes that you like (leaves changing colors, cooler weather, fall holidays)? Are you dressing up for Halloween? Are you sometimes scared of changes you see at Halloween (costumes, scary sounds and decorations)?

This will also go down as one of my favorite story times because one of my regular sensory story time attendees, who has been working on developing her speech for a while, said her first words during our welcome song. Her grandma and I couldn't decide whether to cry or scream with joy, but we both did a little inner squee!

Here is the plan:

Welcome song: "The Story Time Ball" (updated version!)
Tune: "Wheels on the Bus"
(Roll ball back and forth to each child)
The story time ball rolls back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth.
The story time ball rolls back and forth,
Let's see who it found. Hi ______!
Now roll it back to me.
(Keep rolling back and forth until each child has said their name.)

Crossing-the-Midline exercise: "Apple picking"
Pretend you are picking apples off the tree, reaching up and over (your midline) for those high apples and crossing arms over to reach low for those apples on the ground that fell off the tree.

Flannel rhyme: "I'm a Little Pumpkin"
Tune: "I'm a Little Teapot"
I'm a little pumpkin,
Orange and round.
When I'm sad,
My face wears a frown.
(place mouth upside down)
But when I'm happy,
All aglow,
Watch my smile
Just grow and grow.
(place mouth right side up)

Story: Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
The simple di-cut illustrations are a wonderful introduction to change and how we can control some of those changes by turning the page and adding or removing parts of the monster's face. After reading the story, we added the parts onto our green monster puppet and then took the parts away so it didn't seem so scary anymore.

Scarf rhyme: "Autumn Leaves"
(We each picked out our favorite colored scarf "leaves," following the movements in the song.)
Tune: "London Bridge is Falling Down"
Autumn leaves are falling down,
falling down, falling down.
Autumn leaves are falling down,
all over town.

Watch them as they whirl and swirl,
whirl and swirl, whirl and swirl.
Watch them as they whirl and swirl,
all over town.

They fall gently to the ground,
to the ground, to the ground.
They fall gently to the ground,
all over town.

Multi-sensory story: In the Fiddle is a Song by Durga Bernhard
I love this beautiful lift-the-flap story that very simply depicts the process of change (i.e. an acorn to a tree, clay to a pot, yarn to a blanket, wheat to bread) I also included some tactile manipulatives of these items as I was reading. (I had them feel and squish a piece of clay and then pass around a pot made from clay. The kids could feel a ball of yarn and then a knit blanket.)

Parachute activity: "Wheels on the Bus" (Another change in the fall: We see the school bus again!)
I love using the parachute, because it is so adaptable. Kids can either hold on and walk around with us or sit under the parachute (still participating, but easier for kids with mobile disabilities).
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all over town.
(parachute goes around)

The doors on the bus go open and shut...
(parachute goes in and out)
The windows on the bus go up and down...
(parachute goes up and down)
The people on the bus go bumpity bump...
(Shake that parachute!)

Goodbye song and stretch: "Tickle the Clouds"
Tickle the clouds.
Tickle your toes.
Turn around and tickle your nose.
Reach down low.
Reach up high.
Story time's over.
Wave goodbye!

Sensory activity: Fall Scavenger Hunt
I originally wanted to do this activity on our Youth Terrace outside our story room, but Mother Nature was not cooperating that day... So we did it inside our large discovery bin! This fall sensory mix was put together by my colleague Andy. She added a couple different di-cut leaf shapes, using a variety of different textured papers, mixed raffia, Indian corn, metal acorns with small bells inside (to add a sound sensory experience), and di-cut pumpkins. I supplied a simple list of things to find and jumbo tweezers to pick them out, practicing those fine motor skills.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Literacy for Youth with Low Vision

I recently chatted with a teacher in our community regarding her early elementary students with low vision and what adaptive resources were available to encourage their love of reading. We talked about their individual needs and what materials the library can offer them. We have a list of resources in our Special Needs Collection for youth with visual impairments and their caregivers. The need for more picture books with high-contrast illustrations (beyond a board book format) became apparent.  A few days later, I had a twitter conversation with fellow youth librarian Renee Grassi about high-contrast books for youth with low vision, and we decided to coordinate blog posts! Renee provided some great resources on her ALSC blog post about books for kids with low vision, so we'll just call this post "part two."

Low vision means that even with corrective devices (glasses, contact lenses, optical lenses, medicine or surgery), you have difficulty completing daily tasks because you don’t see well. Vision loss can vary from mild to severe, but there is still a functional amount of vision. There are many different causes of vision loss and some causes are more likely with age (i.e. macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes). According to the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind, “the leading causes of visual impairment in infants and children are retinopathy of prematurity, deficits in the visual centers of the brain, cataracts, and retina abnormalities...Cortical visual impairment (CVI) is a neurological visual disorder and also the fastest growing visual impairment diagnosis today.” Here’s a great online resource to learn more about CVI: Different diagnoses mean different needs. With assistive aids and literature in tactile form, many youth with low vision can enjoy a good book as much or more than their peers with 20/20 vision. Let’s talk more about adaptive literacy.

Assistive literacy tools for youth with low vision:
  • Books in Braille (including tactile illustrated Braille with raised-line or three-dimensional illustrations so you can experience the pictures by feeling them) 
  • Books in large print
  • Audio books, eAudio books, visual accessibility options on eBook platforms (i.e. OverDrive)
  • Touch/feel books and Pop-up books
  • Adapted books with simple, high-contrast illustrations (bright image on black background)
    (Check out Paths to Literacy link below for samples and instructions.)
  • Story Boxes
  • Light box literacy activities (check out the light box activity we did in my Space-themed story time.)
  • High-contrast picture books

Story Boxes
These are kits that contain a story and manipulatives representing characters or items mentioned in the story for kids to touch / feel while listening. These manipulatives give meaning to the words in the story for tactile learners, which helps to support comprehension and allows children with low vision to experience the story hands-on. Some storytelling sets can be purchased from companies such as Kaplan and School Specialty, but some of our best story boxes have been hand made by volunteers with exceptional sewing skills!

High-Contrast Picture books
Many children with low vision need materials presented in high-contrast in order to visually process them with accuracy. While there are many board books with high-contrast illustrations, I had to do a little more digging for picture books with high-contrast images that older children with low vision could appreciate. I received some wonderful suggestions from other librarians on Twitter (thank you!) and then did a little research. Along with high-contrast colors, illustrations should not be too busy or complex with patterns that may confuse the reader. Effective colors can also vary. Bright colors are usually best, reflecting the light to allow for better visibility. Not all children with low vision prefer black and white, though. According to a study done by the Little Bear Sees organization (, “…highly saturated color is incredibly important for youth with CVI because color vision is usually preserved.” Children with CVI tend to prefer color contrasts in red and yellow (but some may also prefer orange and blue or other contrasting colors).

Here are some of my favorites:
Board Books:
DK Braille book series
High-Contrast book series from Duopress (Hello, Ocean Friends)
High-Contrast books by Roger Priddy
Art for Baby: High-Contrast Images by Eleven Contemporary Artists... Candlewick Press
Deneux, Xavier         My Animals
Garralon, Claire        Black Cat & White Cat
Hoban, Tana             White on Black and Black on White
Linenthal, Peter        Look, Look Outside!
Purcess, Rebecca     Super Chicken!
Torres, J.                  Checkers and Dot series
Wan, Joyce              We Belong Together

Picture Books:
Books by publisher PatrickGeorge     I See..., I Hear...
DK Braille book series
Antony, Steve       Please, Mr. Panda
Borando, Silvia     Black Cat, White Cat
Bruna, Dick          Miffy series
Cooper, Elisha     Big Cat, Little Cat
Crews, Donald     Ten Black Dots and Freight Train
Davis, Katie          Who Hops?
Ehlert, Lois           Fish Eyes: a Book You Can Count On
Emberley, Ed       Go Away, Big Green Monster!
Fontes, Justine    Black Meets White
Henkes, Kevin     Kitten's First Full Moon
Hoban, Tana        A, B, See!
Jocelyn, Marthe   Same Same and Eats
Kohara, Kazuno   Ghosts in the House and The Midnight Library
McClure, Nikki     Apple and In
Murphy, Mary       I Kissed the Baby and I Like It When...
Parr, Todd            The Feelings Book
Pienkowski, Jan    Homes
Portis, Antoinette  Not a Box
Rueda, Claudia     Is It Big or Is It Little?
Rylant, Cynthia     All in a Day
Seeger, Laura V.   One Boy
Sis, Peter              Fire Truck
Thomas, Jan         Can You Make a Scary Face?
Veille, Eric             My Pictures After the Storm
Walsh, Ellen S.     Mouse Paint
Woollvin, Bethan   Little Red
Yuly, Toni               Early Bird

Here are a couple of great online resources for more information on literacy for children with CVI: 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Inclusive Technology Station

This blog post was originally published on the ALSC blog. I have added a few product details to this post.

Inclusion is defined by Merriam-Webster as simply “the act of including.” In 2009, the Bloomfield Township Public Library officially unveiled its Special Needs Collection for patrons with different needs. The collection has grown considerably over the past 8 years with circulation increasing steadily due to word-of-mouth, marketing to community organizations and schools, a focus group, and adapted programming. We often see families of all ages with special needs visiting the Youth Room to read, color, attend a program, and play.  Striving to include the technology needs of those with different learning needs in our library, we put together a proposal for our Friends of the Library to create an Inclusive Technology Station. Our proposal was approved and funded with a budget of $3500 for an accessible technology station with active seating and software/apps geared to different learners. Here’s what we put together:

Desktop PC
All of our public computer stations have the Office software, JAWS screen reading software, and multiple Internet browsers (two of which have a large print keyboard). This PC also has these adapted additions:
ZAC browser (developed for children with autism and other special needs)
Software:  Boardmaker (for teachers, therapists, and caregivers to create visuals for the classroom, office, or home), Zoom Text, Word Q (word prediction software great for English Language Learners or slower typists due to physical disability)
Large print keyboard in high contrast black and yellow for those with low vision
Ambidextrous colorful switch-adapted trackball mouse (to be inclusive of people with fine motor difficulties)
Software to develop social skills and capability switch skills is currently being considered for future addition.


This tethered iPad offers 40 fun and educational apps geared to different learners that work on the development of vital skills (fine motor, visual processing, sensory awareness, language, visual-motor, auditory memory and processing, reading, writing, sequencing, social and daily living, spatial awareness, emotion recognition, and eye contact).  We chose a durable tethered case from Bouncepad that can also be placed on a lap for better accessibility and printed these brochures describing the apps in large print:
Inclusive Tech Station iPad Apps (part 1)
Inclusive Tech Station iPad Apps (part 2)

Active Seating
Static seating can be very uncomfortable for people with a lot of energy and/or have a constant need for active sensory input. Dynamic, movement-based seating (“active seating”) can promote concentration and engagement for those with autism, ADHD, and other learning disabilities. The slight constant movement provides much needed sensory input while also requiring the person to make frequent postural adjustments, strengthening core muscles for those with low muscle tone. Many special education classrooms have already made the switch to this form of seating, which by the way, is also being adopted by mainstream classrooms, colleges, and corporations for better productivity!

We chose these height-adjustable Turnstone Buoy Stools that can be used by children, teens, and adults with special needs. They also come in a variety of really neat colors!

Some great resources on assistive technology:
Assistive Technology in Special Education: Resources for Education, Intervention, and Rehabilitation, 2nd Ed. by Joan L. Green (Prufrock Press, 2014)

Assistive Technology Toolbox
Paths to Literacy       
Apps for Children with Special Needs
Common Sense Media

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Outreach: Gardening Sensory Story Time

Ed and I visited two groups of students at Wing Lake last month for a little summer-themed story time. The Wing Lake Developmental Center is a year-round school that serves students, ages 3 - 26 years, in Oakland County with severe cognitive impairments (SCI) and severe multiple impairments (SXI). We try to incorporate many multi-sensory experiences in our outreach here, so that each student is able to participate and enjoy the program. With our Read to Seed Garden at the library planted and growing nicely, we decided to bring a bit of the garden with us. Here's what we did:

Welcome: "Today we are learning about seeds, flowers, vegetables and other things that we see in the garden. What do you like about gardens? Do you like to smell the different flowers? Is there a vegetable that you like the most?"
Corn, broccoli, and potatoes seemed to be the favorites of the day.

Song: "This is the Way We Plant the Seeds" (Tune: "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush")
This is the way we plant the seeds
plant the seeds, plant the seeds.
This is the way we plant the seeds so early in the morning.
(continue with "water the seeds," "pull up the weeds")

Story: Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson
This is a nice, interactive story with many multi-sensory opportunities. (We wiggled our fingers to "add some water" - we brought around eyedroppers full of water to let everyone experience the drop of water from the "watering can" in the story. We worked on making our bzzzzing sound when we brought around a bee puppet to everyone, and gave everyone the chance to touch the blossoms from the story when we brought around a couple of flowering plants for the students to touch and feel.)

Flannel Rhyme: "Five Pretty Flowers"

Out in the garden,
growing in the sun,
were five pretty flowers,
and I picked ONE!
(count down until none are left)

Story: Rah, Rah, Radishes!: a Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre
We brought along some veggies for everyone to touch, feel, and smell when we read this story! The garlic was a big hit!

Song: "Up Pop the Flowers!" (Tune: "Pop! Goes the Weasel")
We plant some seeds in the dirt. (Pretend to plant seeds - covering hand with the other hand.)
The rain falls in a shower. (Raise arms and wiggle fingers downward.)
The Sun comes out, and what do you know? (Hold arms in a circle.)
UP pop the flowers! (Lift arms up.)

Craft/Activity: We decorated small cardboard pots, added some dirt, and planted sunflower seeds. Gardening, whether done in the ground outside or in containers/raised beds, is a great activity for everyone of all ages that builds motor skills, understanding of the cause/effect concept, and gives you the satisfaction of pride and accomplishment no matter what your abilities are.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

After-hours Special Needs Family Fun Night!

This month we hosted our 3rd after-hours event for families of all ages with special needs. It was held on a Friday night after closing, from 6:30 - 8:30 pm. Attendees could enjoy the library with a reduced number of visitors, which lowers anxiety and limits distractions for many individuals who struggle with sensory overload.

We provided additional accessibility, by placing visuals for each service area and activity around the library.

Our Youth Librarian, Andy, created some fabulous sensory bins for the Youth Room. Kids could dig through the cornmeal "sand" in the one side of this bin and play with sea creatures in a blue jello "sea" on the other side. A larger bin was also filled with water and sponge sailboats.

We also placed many of our adapted toys, books and kits from the Special Needs Collection on tables for families to try out and even check out later to play with at home. Simple crafts to help encourage fine motor development were also placed on tables.

Sometimes overstimulation can still occur, so we provided a "cool-down" space in our story room for folks to retreat to. We dimmed the lights and provided small weighted lap pads, sensory cushions to sit on, a pop-up tent with pillows for those seeking an "enclosed space" (tall enough to accommodate an adult),  a visual timer, sound reduction headphones, and fidgets for those needing additional sensory input to self-regulate or "chill."


Whole Foods Market provided some yummy gluten-free, casein-free, and nut-free snacks for the evening.

A yoga instructor from Belightful Yoga led a relaxing adapted yoga session for youth and adults with special needs alongside their caregivers. How often do you get the chance to do yoga in the middle of the library?!

The Adult Services area also had crafts and popular games in a larger format for those who may have difficulty with fine motor skills.

To wrap up the evening, our friendly circulation staff members helped our attendees check out their materials.

We were so delighted to see faces that we don't see on a regular basis at the library. Many families with special needs, who may have avoided visiting the library before, expressed their gratitude for this stress-free evening and are excited to return next time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shake, Rhythm & Rhyme Story Time: "Feel the Beat!"

We were feeling the beat and dancing around the room this month! Shake, Rhythm & Rhyme is our inclusive story time for children of all abilities, ages 2 - 6. It is adapted with a visual schedule, dimmed lighting, and multi-sensory experiences (similar to our SENSEational Story Time). Here is this month's plan:

Welcome Song: "Shirt Song" (borrowed from Barbara Klipper)

Calling up the children by name, or bringing the board with the flannel shirts to a child with a mobile disability, I have the child choose the color shirt they are wearing and then place it on our large flannel board. We go around the circle until everyone's "shirt" is on the board.

___________ is wearing a (color) shirt,
a (color) shirt, a (color) shirt, 
and ________ is here with us today!

Yoga pose: "Dancer"
(I like to use the Yogarilla card set, which has the pose on one side and an adapted version of the pose on the other side.) I show them both versions, so they can decide which one they want to try.

ASL rhyme: "I Went to a Concert and What Did I Hear?"
(source: Storytime Stuff)
I taught them the ASL signs for piano, guitar, and drums to use when saying this rhyme:

I went to a concert and what did I hear?
The sound of a piano in my ear!
I went to a concert and what did I hear?
The sound of a guitar in my ear!
I went to a concert and what did I hear?
The sound of drums in my ear!

I also used the Garage Band app to play the sounds of the instruments for them. Love this app!

Flannel: "Five Dancing Ballerinas"

Five dancing ballerinas
prancing on their toes.
They twirl and spin and jump
then off the stage she goes.
Continue counting down.
(source: Storytime Katie and adorable tutus for flannel dancers made by our wonderful Clerical Assistant, Jennifer D.)

Story: I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison
I gave one of our story time parents our drum to keep the steady beat going as it does throughout this rhythmic story.

Sensory diet rhyme with scarves: "Dance Your Scarves"
Dance your scarves up.
Dance your scarves down.
Dance them to your side,
And dance them all around.
Dance them on your shoulders.
Dance them on your head.
Dance them on your tummies,
And put them to bed!

Story: The Nuts: Sing and Dance in Your Polka-Dot Pants by Eric Litwin
Story time gold! It's got rhythm, repetition, and movement... and it's just so adorable!!

Story-related sensory activity: Doing the "Polka-Dot Dance!"
I handed out large colored dots to everyone and we did the Polka-Dot Pants Dance (located at the end of the story) waving our dots around. The best part about this dance? It can be done seated or standing!

Parachute activity: "Ring Around the Rosie"

Goodbye Song: "Tickle the Clouds"
Tickle the clouds.
Tickle your toes.
Turn around and tickle your nose.
Reach down low.
Reach up high.
Story time's over--
Wave goodbye!

Sensory craft and playtime: 
We made shakers with plastic eggs, rice, and colorful duct tape. And of course... we got out our instruments for the kids to play with!