Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Outreach: "Animals in the Winter"

Cover of Over and Under the Snow book with images of parent and child skiing over the snow and an animal sleeping under the snow


Ed and I visited one of our outreach favorites last week! We love bringing our multi-sensory story time programs to the students at the Wing Lake Developmental Center, 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 provide as many sensory experiences as we can, so students with visual disabilities, motor difficulties, and other developmental disabilities can truly engage with the story time.

This visit focused on what animals do in the winter time. We chose to read Kate Messner's Over and Under the Snow, a picture book with so many wonderful sensory opportunities!

Here's our plan:

1. Hello (Talk about our picture schedule)


2. Talk about our theme: Animals in the Winter
"Today we are learning about what animals do in the winter time. What do you do in the winter? Do you like the cold? Snow? What do you like to eat when it is cold outside? Do you feel more sleepy, like some animals do?


3. Mindfulness exercise: "(Hibernating) Bear Breath"
Close your eyes and imagine you are a bear going inside your cave to get ready to sleep all winter.

Take a nice, deep breath in for 5 seconds (1,2,3,4,5) and then hold for 3 seconds (1,2,3).

Now breathe out for a count of five seconds (1,2,3,4,5) and then hold for 3 seconds (1,2,3).

Let's repeat.

Now open your eyes and notice how relaxed you feel, like that sleepy bear.

(source: Yoga Pretzels)


4. "(Where is) Sleepy Bear?"
Use two hands or two fingers and sing to tune of "Where is Thumbkin?"

Where is bear? Where is bear?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you this winter?
Very tired, thank you.
Go to sleep. Go to sleep.
Say "Wake up bear!" and repeat


5. Story with sensory experiences: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Projecting this story on the big screen, which is available in eBook format on OverDrive, helps our large groups to see the story better. We can also be hands-free to read and describe the illustrations while bringing all of our sensory experiences around to each student, with the help of teachers and aides in the room:

table with cups of hot cocoa, pea gravel, artificial snow, baskets with furry fabric and feathers, tree branches, bag of leaves, white furry fabric
Page spread with owl and shrew
Rattling leftover leaves (rustling leaves in bags for each student to hear)
Sound of great horned owl (make owl sounds with students)
Tiny shrew following tunnel along the moss... (lift-the-flap touch/feel box covered in white flannel with moss and shrew/mole puppet inside for each student to see, touch, feel)
mole/shrew puppet inside touch/feel box

Page with deer mice under the snow
Mice cuddling up against the cold in a nest of feathers and fur (small baskets lined with "furry fabric" and feathers, with small mouse finger puppet to touch/feel)
basket with furry fabric, feathers, and mouse finger puppet


Page with snowshoe hare under tree
Snowshoe hare smoothing her fur (pieces of white artificial "fur" to touch/feel)

Page with two beavers under the snow
Beavers gnawing on aspen bark (pieces of tree bark to touch/feel and smell)

Page spread with fox leaping over the snow
He heard a scritch-scritch-scratching along underneath (rustling cups of pea gravel around the students so they can hear the little mouse under the snow)
bag of pea gravel

Page spread with full moon
A full moon lights my path to supper... (dimming the lights and shining bright daylight lamp to shine the "moonlight" for everyone to experience)

natural daylight lamp

Page spread with bear under the snow and cross country skiing parent and child coming upon a bonfire over the snow with hot cocoa
(cups of hot cocoa brought near each student to smell the delicious aroma)

Page spread with feathery-soft snow flakes falling
(bowls of artificial snow brought to each student to touch/feel)


6. Song: "Sprinkle, Sprinkle, Little Snow" with ASL sign for snow
tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Sprinkle, sprinkle, little snow
falling down on us below.
Small and white and powdery,
such a joy for all to see.
Sprinkle, sprinkle, little snow
falling down on us below.


7. Sensory activity: "Animals in winter" sensory bags 
We had some of our volunteers pre-draw the outline of a tree and the ground level on gallon-size ziplock bags and use our di-cut machine to cut out owl, squirrel, and mouse shapes from foam. We gave each student one of these bags along with 3 scoops of our artificial snow, and then we added the animal shapes. Teachers and aides helped us to close up the bags so students could "smoooosh" the snow inside and move the animals around over and under the snow. We talked about which animals from the story (mice, squirrel) go over and under the snow and which animals stay above the snow (owl).

student squeezing snow in sensory bag

student holding up winter animal sensory bag


winter animal sensory ziplock bag filled with artificial snow and foam shape owl, mouse, and squirrel

ziplock bag with tree outline and ground level line drawn on




Sunday, December 9, 2018

Adults in the Youth Room?: Welcoming Adults with Developmental Disabilities in the Library

Hand tree with colorful hand leaves of all sizes

Are we walking a line between ageism and ableism? Have we unintentionally excluded someone while welcoming another?

And so a pressing conversation began at our recent meeting of the Special Needs Services Roundtable (SNSR), a group of youth, teen, and adult services librarians in Michigan working with patrons who have disabilities. We all have different perspectives regarding library services for adults with developmental disabilities. So why can't we seem to find a perfect balance? 

Three years ago, we were seeing an increase of adults with disabilities from nearby group homes visiting our library. They were coming to the library to eat lunch or a snack in the cafe and then visit the Youth Room, where they found emerging-level reading materials, games, coloring, and a space that is a little more forgiving of noise to be the most appealing. Wanting to engage these weekly visitors better, I collaborated with my colleague over in Adult Services, Ed Niemchak, to develop an age-respectful story time for teens and adults with disabilities. See our guest post on Bryce Kozla's blog here: http://brycekozlablog.blogspot.com/2018/09/sensory-story-time-for-adults.html 

Positive feedback and demand for more programming led Ed to add monthly sensory-friendly movie programs as well. When these programs are not being offered, we still see our adult group home friends in the Youth Room on almost a daily basis. Some caregivers are very engaged with their residents, helping them find materials, making sure they are set up at the one of the listening stations, coloring, or using one of the computer stations. Some might not be as engaged or just need some ideas/resources shared with them.

We had 34 librarians at our fall/winter SNSR meeting, and almost all of them expressed an interest in what other libraries are doing for visiting group homes in the library, especially the Youth Room. Some libraries also offer sensory story times, craft programs, or fantastic volunteer programs for adults with developmental disabilities. But what about when we aren't in a program? What about the other days of the week or the rest of the month when we have adults visiting the same room as a young child with their caregiver? A young child who also wants to play at the early literacy stations but is intimidated by the physically larger person seated next to him playing the same game he wants to play? Can we welcome one and unknowingly turn away the other? If we are being inclusive of all ages and abilities, then shouldn't we welcome everyone in the library space where they feel the most comfortable regardless of their height or age? 

As one librarian pointed out, we want to classify everything from materials to our patrons in the library. By doing this we can apply developmental stage expertise and best practices in our services for youth, teens, adults, and seniors. Unfortunately, we cannot classify everything and everyone as it turns out, and that is when we as librarians feel uncomfortable. Can we provide an intergenerational space that is welcoming to all ages and abilities?

Why should we be sending people to the Adult Room if they find the materials in the Youth Room more appealing and less intimidating? Should we be re-thinking Adult Services, incorporating quiet and "noisier" spaces to accommodate visiting groups of people? Adults with cognitive or intellectual disabilities are still adults who should be receiving the same respect in services as any other adult in the library. If 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. are living with a disability, and an estimated 4.6 million Americans have an intellectual or developmental disability, we need to consider accessibility and equity services with the same care as youth, teen, or adult services if we aren't already.

While we may not have the answers to all of these questions yet, the one common denominator remains among librarians working in all departments (in libraries of all sizes): our actions and not just aspirations toward inclusion. Merriam-Webster defines inclusion simply as "the act of including." Are traditional public library spaces and services being inclusive of everyone? This conversation needs to continue and I look forward to hearing more about how other libraries are being inclusive of adults with disabilities.

I enjoy greeting our group home visitors, introducing myself and getting to know everybody, including the caregivers. Here are a few passive activity ideas that librarians in our group are offering adults with developmental disabilities visiting the youth room and adult room in between targeted and inclusive programs:
  • coloring sheets with packs of colored pencils (preferred over crayons)
  • puzzles
  • board games
  • activity sheets (simple search & finds or crossword puzzles)
  • keeping a small stack of Hi-Lo fiction and age-respectful emerging reader non-fiction titles at the Youth or Adult Desk (and changing it weekly)
What service(s) or program(s) is your library providing for adults with developmental disabilities?