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: http://tech.aph.org/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 (http://littlebearsees.org/), “…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   http://techpotential.net/attoolbox
Paths to Literacy                 http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/
Apps for Children with Special Needs http://a4cwsn.com/
iAutism                 http://www.appyautism.com/en/
Common Sense Media         https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

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!


Monday, April 17, 2017

SENSEational Story Time: Earth Day

On Saturday, we explored nature and recycling to celebrate Earth Day coming up. Here is the plan:

Welcome song: "The Story Time Ball"

Crossing-the-Midline exercise: "Windy Tree" 
Cross arms over the body's center in a "flowing" motion, back & forth, like branches blowing in the wind.

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: Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
We used our new board book set of this title so everyone could interact with their caregiver, touching the tree to see what happens, as we read the story together.

Stretch band rhyme: "Earth Day Song"
(Tune: "Mulberry Bush")
This is the way we pick up trash,
pick up trash, pick up trash.
This is the way we pick up trash
to help our Mother Earth.
(source: Preschool Education)

Story: I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullan
We love making all of the fun garbage truck sounds in this story!

Story-related sensory activity: "Feed Stinky the Garbage Truck"

I photocopied/laminated illustrations of Stinky's ingredients for "Alphabet Soup," and hid them in a discovery bin filled with "up-cycled garbage" (old bulletin board paper scrunched up, cardboard tubes and containers, old eReader cords, water bottles, plastic lids, and burlap). The kids searched for the ingredients and then fed them to Stinky. I took our wood touch/feel box and attached my construction paper garbage truck face to the front. (Okay, he kind of looks like an alien garbage truck, but they loved it!)

Tactile beam activity: "Tactile beam song"
(Move slowly and adapt for those with mobile disabilities -- can do movements while seated or with the aid of their caregiver on the beam.)
We can move
Forward and backward,
Forward and backward.
Side to side,
Side to side.
Forward and backward,
Forward and backward.

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!

Play time & activity: Planting "flowers"
Gardening is a wonderful way to practice fine motor skills! We added potting soil to our pots and planted some grass seeds. Then we took a green pipe cleaner, folded it in half, and inserted two foam flower shapes with hole-punched centers at the ends for our blossoms. They "planted" these flowers in their pots and added a little water.  Soon they will see a little patch of grass growing around their "flowers!"