Thursday, July 25, 2019

Book & Play: A Multisensory Exploration

How to Catch a Star book cover with boy and rocket standing on top of a golden star












This month my colleague, Nicole, and I looked at sensory story time from a more focused perspective. For some time now, I have been wanting to take a really deep sensory dive into one picture book, incorporating movement, exploration, and play. The program, called "Book & Play," provides an immersive multisensory experience of one picture book. I love, love, love all of the sensory possibilities in the book How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers!

The non-registered program was held in our large community room, so we could arrange sensory experience stations around the room. We started off by reading the story to everyone gathered around at the front of room and then described each of the different stations, talking about each experience from the story.

Sensory experience stations included:

"Catch a Star"

discovery bin filled with dried black beans and colorful foam star shapestable with two small buckets and "Catch a Star" sign

kids using tweezers to catch the colorful foam stars in the bin of dried black beans















"The boy decided he would try to catch one."
Kids practiced their fine motor skills, using large tweezers to catch the colorful stars in a bin of dried black beans and then dropping them into the buckets on the table.




"Reach for the Stars"

"Reach for the Stars" sign with image of hands reaching up toward the stars in the skychild reaching for stars hanging from stretch bands attached to garden arch


garden arch with laminated stars hanging from stretch bands attached at the topclose up view of stars hanging from stretch bands

"The boy tried to jump up and grab it."
Kids could try jumping and reaching for stars, just like the boy in the story. Activities were written on each star, so when kids touched a star, they could do that star's activity (i.e. stomp your feet, pretend to be your favorite animal, clap your hands). We found an inexpensive arch in a gardener's supply catalog, set the arch in buckets of sand to stabilize it, attached zip ties through a hole punched at the top of the laminated stars, and tied stretch bands through the zip tie and at the top of the arch.




"Lasso the Spaceship"

4 red and blue plush rockets on floor next to starschild's arm reaching with duct tape-wrapped circle toward plush rockets on floor



"He thought he might lasso the star with a life preserver..."
I was so excited to find out about the Kohl's Cares plushies from Jeffers' stories! We used 4 of the plush rocket ships, with oatmeal container bases decorated by our very talented clerical assistant. Diana designed the base to look like the rocket blasting off. Kids were given "life preservers" (foam wreaths wrapped in colorful duct tape) to try to lasso a spaceship or a star.




"Starfish Discovery Pool"

Starfish Discovery Pool sign with image of starfish in water at the beach

kids reaching into water-filled bins with starfish

discovery bin with water and starfish along with inflated palm trees and a folding wall with blue translucent paper and stars

"And that's when he saw it... washed up on the bright golden sand."

We added dried starfish, like the boy found on the beach, to our discovery bins filled with water and added a little tropical background. Kids could feel the different textures and even smell their slight salt water scent.



"Wrapped Stars"

paper stock star wrapped in yarnchild holding paper stock star, wrapping yarn around it

child wrapping yarn around a paper stock star with balls of yarn and star cutouts on the table below

Of course we had to make some textured stars of our own to take home! Kids were given card stock stars to cut out (or they could choose one of the pre-cut stars) to wrap colorful yarn around.

It was a nice-sized crowd of just over 30 kids and their caregivers. We did also provide sound-cancelling head phones for those who needed a little break from the sounds in the room. Kids and caregivers expressed how much they enjoyed truly experiencing the story hands-on. I look forward to trying this again with another sensory experience-filled picture book in the near future.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

My First Program

I would like to introduce you to my co-blogger, Ed Niemchak! Ed is an adult services librarian at the Bloomfield Township Public Library. Three years ago, Ed and I worked together to develop a sensory story time for teens and adults after seeing many group home visitors in the youth room looking for things to do during their library visits. We took elements from my sensory story time for youth and added more age-respectful elements, including fiction and nonfiction picture books with age-respectful illustrations/photographs and a social element at the start, discussing the theme with the group. Ed and I also collaborate on our outreach visits to the Wing Lake Developmental Center for students, ages 3 -  26, with multiple disabilities. Take it away Ed!

Going forward, I will talk about current programming in this space, but first I want to reflect on my first program and things I learned, both positive and negative.

The first program I conducted was in January 2016 and it was rushed because my department head didn't want me to procrastinate. Unlike now, I didn't have the layout well defined and hadn't settled on all of the elements that we utilize now.

The theme I settled on, because of the time of the year was "Animals in Winter." It seemed to be a good topic with all of the snow on the ground and would give us a good chance to discuss a few different things.

We now use a variety of elements including a yoga pose, stories, rhymes, songs, music, videos and a craft activity, but due to the rushed nature of the first program we simply read two stories sang a couple of rhymes and had a simple sensory activity.

The books I chose to read were Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner.

Book cover for Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. A large golden bear is laying down sleeping while smaller animal friends are surrounding him



Bear Snores On tells the story of a group of animals that gather in the cave of a hibernating bear to throw a party. The reason I selected this story is it has a nice rhythm that is easy to follow and also offered the opportunity for us to discuss what the different animals are and what they do in the winter. The illustrations are very colorful and are appropriate for this audience.


Book cover for Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. Snowy hills with a father and child on cross country skis stopped in the middle of trees are at the top. Fallen leaves on the ground lead to a burrow underground where an animal is sleeping atop leaves at the bottom of the cover.


Over and Under the Snow is a non-fiction title for youth that introduces a number of animals and how they survive the harsh winter months in the woods, both above and below the snow.

The rhymes we recited were:

Build A Snowman (to the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine)

Build a snowman,
Build a snowman,
Build a snowman,
Big and round.
Shape three snowballs, different sizes
Stack them tall, then add a face.

Dress the snowman,
Dress the snowman,
Dress the snowman,
Big and round.
Dress him in last winter's clothes,
Tie his scarf and add a cap.

When the sun,
When the sun,
When the sun
Shines so bright,
Watch him melt and disappear
Never to return again.

Save his clothes,
Save his clothes,
Save his clothes,
Don't throw them out!
Soon the snow will fall again.
Another snowman will be born.

The Frost Song (to the tune of Farmer in the Dell)

The frost is in the air.
The frost is in the air.
It's wintertime, It's wintertime,
The frost is in the air.

The frost is on the trees.
The frost is on the trees.
It's wintertime, It's wintertime,
The frost is on the trees.

The frost is on the roof.
The frost is on the roof.
It's wintertime, It's wintertime,
The frost is on the roof.

The frost is on the windows.
The frost is on the windows.
It's wintertime, It's wintertime,
The frost is on the windows.

The frost is on the ground.
The frost is on the ground.
It's wintertime, It's wintertime,
The frost is on the ground.

The frost tells me it's cold.
The frost tells me it's cold.
It's wintertime, It's wintertime,
The frost tells me it's cold.

So inside I'll stay.
So inside I'll stay.
Inside it's nice, and I am warm.
So inside I'll stay.

For our sensory activity, I found fake snow called "insta-snow" and a variety of Toob animals. I selected both animals that are and are not found in snow and buried them in the insta-snow. The participants dug up the animals and we discussed the feel of the snow as well as whether the animals are typically found over, or under, the snow.

What Did I Learn?

I had a few challenges with my first program, partially due to the fact that I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing or if anyone would show up. As it turned out, we had seven folks with 2 caregivers. Not too bad for a first time.

One of the first challenges we faced was getting folks into our meeting room in the basement. Many of the folks have trouble with stairs, and our elevator only holds so many, so we spent a great deal of time getting everyone down. To remedy this, after our first three programs, I have been able to consistently book the library's upstairs room, making it easier on all involved since our program attendance has increased greatly.

Another challenge I faced was the ability of everyone to see the book we were reading. I would spend much time walking around the room to show the pictures, while at the same time trying to be as descriptive as possible for our low-vision guests. After discussing with Jen, we realized with the option to use the projectors in each room, I now scan in the books to a PowerPoint slideshow, or, more recently, attempt to find appropriate books on Hoopla.

The last challenge I faced that day was trying to sing out the rhymes, when no one else could follow along. It was suggested that in the future, which I still do now, that we make copies of the rhymes and handout them out to anyone else that wants one, including attendees and caregivers.

After the first few programs, I started to receive feedback from caregivers as the attendance started to grow. What they asked for are things that have become regular elements of the programs, including a yoga stretch at the beginning as well as more animated rhymes with movement to attempt to get the attendees moving around and more engaged.

In future posts, I will discuss more current program themes that I have explored but for now wanted to reflect back on where it all started.




Wednesday, May 22, 2019

ArtABILITY: Accessible After-Hours Discovery at the Library

view of open air lobby with sky lights and brown tile and carpet floor. There is a poster stand with a blue poster inside reading ArtABILITY next to a wood table with handouts and pencil holder. Ranges of shelving to the left and a service desk are in the background.


I love the month of May because that means our library is going to be filled with the wonderful artistic expressions of students in the Bloomfield Hills School District Art Show. We really wanted to make this fantastic art accessible for everyone in the community, so we held a sensory-friendly after-hours art appreciation event this past Friday. As with other sensory-friendly after-hours events we have held on Fridays, we kept the doors open upon closing at 6:30 pm exclusively for children, teens, and adults with disabilities along with their families. This gives people of all ages with disabilities the chance to explore the library and/or experience our sensory activities in a less crowded, low-stress, sensory-friendly environment, with visuals and a calming space in case of overstimulation. This is also a time when many feel more comfortable attending, as they can just be themselves. Whether it's stimming, loud tics or excited voices, this is a "no judgement (or shushing) zone." As one group of adults with intellectual disabilities was headed through the door and one of them spoke loudly in her excitement, the caregiver and others in the group looked at me with an apologetic glance. "No worries, that's what this night is for!" I said with equal excitement. 

We provided a visual guide to the evening's activities in the lobby, along with a survey and handouts to help attendees explore our two pieces of touchable library art: our sculpture "Quest" (an adult sitting on a bench peering at an excited child holding a book over head in the background of the top image in this post) and the Conant Elementary School Legacy Project tile mosaic.

table with 4 paper handouts and pencils in pencil holdersAn older child in wheelchair, next to an adult female, is touching a colorful tile mosaic with floral motif hanging on a brick wall.


We also provided an ASL interpreter, a tour of selected works in the art show with verbal description for attendees with visual impairment, sensory activities, and more tactile art activities. Tactile art included this fantastic flannel book of tactile representations of four works of art from the neighboring Cranbrook Art Museum. Our incredibly creative library intern, Lauren Aquilina, wrote to Cranbrook for permission to recreate these pieces from their collection for our ArtABILITY event and then created this tactile masterpiece using fabric, foam, glue, puffy paint, buttons, pipe cleaners and yarn.

a sign with visuals and instructions to touch tactile representations of 4 works of art from the Cranbrook Art Museum is in front of a red flannel book that has a sparkly hand over a blue and yellow square background. The top of the book reads 'Touchable Art.'

a two page layout with printed image of art by Alfred Jensen, titled Atlantis, Per II, 1965, on the left. On the right side is a tactile representation made of woven string in vertical lines of yellow, black, blue and reda two page spread with a printed image of the art work by Roy Lichtenstein, titled Modular Painting with Four Pencils, No. 7 from the Modern Series, 1970, on the left. There are images of 4 pencils. On the right side is a tactile representation made from puffy paint and flannel pieces in red, black, and blue to create a pencil shape point up

a two page spread with a print of the art work by Victor Vasarely, titled Toll (from the Permutations Series), 1965. There are 4 squares with yellow dots and small square shapes of yellow inside, arranged in a pattern. On the right side is a tactile representation with grey flannel square in the background and buttons in yellow, green, and black sewn in a square pattern
 a two page spread with a print of the artwork by Nicholas Krushenick, titled The Battle of Bull Run, 1963, on the left. It is an image with arcs of blue and yellow at the top with an orange, yellow lines crossing each other with red looping shapes in an arc over the lines. On the right is a tactile representation of this image using pipe cleaners in the same colors and patterns


Our activities in the Youth Services Room included light table play, a very cool sensory painting activity from librarian Patricia Ballard, spring time discovery bin and textured paint play from librarian Andy Lebeck, and a cool-down space for those seeking a little sensory break.

A poster titled Youth Services Highlights, with 4 visuals in squares: arts and crafts, sensory activity, browsing collection, and person relaxing in cool-down spacewood light table with colorful translucent blocks, letters, numbers, and pyramid shapes

arms and hands shown working on paintings, using paint tools at a table with glue, paint, and tools in the centertwo black frames with colorful paint in swirl patterns


two-sided sensory bin. The left side has black beans, plastic bugs and plastic flowers. The right side has water, foam fish, and small nets



We turned our story room into a cool-down space for sensory breaks. 
The lights are dimmed and there are some tools provided to help with self-regulation, such as fidgets and weighted lap pads for people seeking sensory input and a pop-up tent (tall enough for adults) and sound-cancelling headphones for sensory avoiders. 


metal stand with poster of figure reclining, with the words Cool-Down Space written above

looking down long blue folding table with lap pads and fidgets on top, beside wall of various geometric shaped windowsround blue folding table with 4 sound cancelling headphones and sign saying "Too Much Stimulation?" on top


sign on top of blue table saying "Need to cool down? Choose a fidget or lap pad to help. There are also four images: fidget, person with lap pad, person saying "I'm okay," and hand squeezing a yellow ball

long blue table with fidgets and timer on topblue pop-up tent with yellow stars on carpeted floor next to 3 orange and pink pillows to the left and a green cushion to the right



Our special guest Caroline Braden, Accessibility Specialist at The Henry Ford, brought tactile activities to learn about the art of "Things That Go." People could wander into our Magazine Room to touch/feel miniature versions of the famous modes of transportation housed at The Henry Ford Museum, put together automobile pieces in a small assembly line and then put together an automobile craft to take home.


Poster in stand with words at the top: The Art of "Things That Go." There are four squares with images inside: The Henry Ford logo, a person pointing to red box, images of 3 modes of transportation, and arts and crafts tools

wood table with small figures of transportationa set of hands working with small plastic parts of an automobile model

four sets of hands working with various art materials to create automobile craft at wood table


People could wander into the Adult Services area to design marshmallow structures, provided by Adult Services librarian, Ed Niemchak, who I will be introducing as a blog partner on here very soon!! Ed will be blogging about adaptive programming for teens and adults, including his monthly sensory story times at the BTPL. Yeah, Ed!

two children creating structures with marshmallows and toothpicks at a white table


At 7 pm, a group of 8 met me in the lobby to head to our Community Room for a tour of 10 selected works in the student art show. I provided detailed verbal description to be inclusive of those who are blind or have low vision. 

looking into a large open room with panels of art work in frames and pedestals for sculptures



Here is one of my favorites from the students at the Wing Lake Developmental Center:


Image description: "Recycled Cap Flower" Medium used: cardboard with plastic bottle and jar caps. 18 x 6 inch rectangle cardboard background presented vertically and centered over vertical black board frame. The cardboard is spray painted green and blue. Over the cardboard background is a 3 dimensional flower shape. Creating the shape of a flower at the top are 23 yellow bottle caps in various 1 - 1 1/2 inch circular shapes with a large 3 inch white jar top in the center. Moving down from the flower top, there are 17 green circular bottle caps, 1 to 2 inches in diameter, trailing down to create a stem shape.


And of course, our attendees could also check out materials with our Head of Circulation, Anna Pelepchuk, at the Circulation desk! 

person peering over computer at desk with the word circulation on the front. In front of the desk is an easel holding a poster with an image of a person checking out a book at the desk with a librarian


Thanks also goes to Head of Youth Services, Marian Rafal, for greeting our attendees at the door and Pages Heather Coffee-Borden and Jessica Doroslovac for assisting with our activities! These after-hours events may not draw in big attendance numbers, but we are so glad to see the faces we don't see on a consistent basis. This was their time to explore art, literature and more in an accessible, low-stress environment.




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Inclusion is more than accommodation: a tour of the Mary Idema Pew Library

Exterior of large building     

The Special Needs Services Roundtable (SNSR) of Michigan librarians working with children, teens, and adults with disabilities, took a field trip for a spring meeting at the incredible Mary Idema Pew Library (Grand Valley State University). Thank you to Annie Belanger, Dean of University Libraries, for hosting and leading us in a discussion on Accessible Customer Service and Planning with Accessibility in Mind. 

Annie's presentation key takeaways included:
  • Implementing accessibility in your planning from the start
  • Accessing your design plans for accessibility barriers
  • Skills needed to make a project accessible, e.g., Universal Design for Learning
  • Conducting an audit of development plans, policies, practices, and procedures to identify gaps in light of the four principles of accessibility: Dignity, Independence, Integration, and Equal Opportunity
  • Determining your vision and approach
  • Developing new or revised policies/guidelines
  • Gathering feedback and approval (especially from the disability community)
  • Implementing new policies, procedures and practices (shared publicly in an accessible manner)

After the presentation, Hannah, a GVSU student and User Experience Team Member at the Mary Idema Pew Library, took us on a tour. Hannah told us that user experience staff roam the library every hour assisting students and faculty, observing use of spaces, and populating data on the interactive pedestal displays on each level. These pedestal displays assist with wayfinding and indicate computer station availability, study room availability, and library traffic levels in seating areas on each level. 

Interactive screen display showing computer availability, meeting room availability, crowd-size in study spaces, and customer satisfaction emojis

Assessing crowd levels can be a wonderful tool for people who may experience overstimulation in more populated settings. Students can also check out some of the library's "Focus Tools" to help with focus and self-regulation. Feedback generated from a neurodiverse student body, including a focus group of autistic GVSU students, initiated the circulation of these Tools, which include weighted lap pads, noise-canceling headphones, reading overlays, fidgets and more.

Screen with images of focus tools: wobble cushions, tinted reading overlays, doodle board

Service desk with computer, keyboard, and totes with focus tools for circulation


Screen with images of focus tools including stress eggs, weighted lap pads, tangle fidgets, and noise-canceling headphones

The Library is inclusive of all learning styles, providing a variety of seating arrangements depending on whether a person prefers studying alone, alone/together, quiet enclosed study rooms, or in larger group collaboration. Not pictured are also height-adjustable tables for library users who prefer or need to be working while standing, but may also be adjusted for seated users. An abundance of natural light is found throughout the library, along with refurbished wood interspersed to help absorb sound. Though we didn't notice until it was brought to our attention, a soothing white noise being projected on one of the levels to help mask collaborative sounds certainly succeeded in its task. Here are just a few of the many different seating arrangements we found:

Seating area with two cozy chairs and small table in center
Smaller 1 - 1 groupings


Cozy nook with cushioned bench, surrounding walls, and movable tables
Cozy nooks with movable tables


Single seat with enclosure and small table tray extended
                       Single seat enclosures with pull-out table tray


outside courtyard with tables and chairs underneath hanging beams
Quiet, natural respite found in the center courtyard of the Library



Glass enclosed silent study reading room with tables, chairs, window benches in background
One of the silent study/reading rooms



square table with movable stools and white boards on wheels in the background

Movable white boards and white board walls found in collaborative areas


Two modern cozy chairs with pull-up tables



two cozy arm chairs with square table in center beside window


view of outside terrace with tables, chairs, and overview of campus
More beautiful, natural respite found on the top level terrace


bench seating along windows and movable tables


tablet beneath meeting room reserve sign with Braille underneath
Popular meeting rooms can be reserved online.


There are so many other great examples, including the fantastic collaboration areas, which were all occupied by many students so I was not able to take photos. Hannah told us that the larger tables with 4 - 5 cozy chairs were the most popular seating arrangement, as students like to spread their books/materials out while working. You can check out more of these arrangements pictured on their website.


The Library's linear layout, interactive digital pedestal displays, text support, and large pop-out call letters in the browsable collections assist students of all abilities with independent wayfinding.

acrylic sign for text support in librarystack range of books with pop-out call number letters



Students are also provided with creativity-sparking (and/or stress-relieving) toys in the large collaboration space.

Jump-start your creativity acrylic sign in front of building toys on shelf


shelves of building toys: Lego, tinker toys, blocks



Students can also head to the Knowledge Market to meet with highly-trained student peer consultants to work on their writing skills, presentation style, and researching strategies.




While humanities books and high-use books in the sciences and social sciences are out on the floor, the majority of the Library's books are housed in an automated storage/retrieval system which students and faculty can request online and pick up at the service desk within minutes. This space savings allows for more space dedicated to student needs. This amazing system is where we ended our tour. 

automated storage retrieval crane and stacks of book storage drawers



As we left to collect our things, we observed students studying, researching, collaborating, creating, and socializing in a student-focused library. In addition to the incorporation of assistive technologies throughout the Mary Idema Pew Library, staff are constantly observing and evaluating how students of all abilities are using spaces and how their experience can be improved upon. A model of inclusion for all academic, public, special, and K-12 school libraries to take a look at. 

open multi-level atrium space with students seated in ollaborative seating arrangements below