During the month of April, you may have seen someone in your community sporting a ribbon decorated with yellow, red and blue puzzle pieces to celebrate National Autism Awareness month. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” which means autism affects individuals differently. As this month of Autism Awareness draws to a close, I want to celebrate some of the ways Carnegie Library supports children with autism and sensory needs throughout the year.
All of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Children’s spaces include sensory friendly toys and furniture. Inclusive toys and furniture appeal to children of all abilities, but for children with autism they can provide essential sensory support. Many people with autism find the most benefit from items which engage two or more senses, such as Wiggle seats which are brightly colored, textured and engage a child’s sense of balance. Other items limit the amount of sensory input a child receives, such as the Cozy Cube reading nook which provides a secure and calming environment. The Cocoon Chairs found in many of our Children’s spaces not only invite you snuggle up and enjoy a book, but were designed to limit visual input for children with sensory needs. There are Liquid floor tiles that transform a normal floor into an interactive exploration. Textured Water Lily Pads and colorful Riverstones can be found in many neighborhood locations to develop a child’s sense of balance. Many locations also have Light walls which are a sensory favorite, as they provide a visual and touch sensation.
All 19 Carnegie Library locations own Sensory Discovery Programming kits. These kits include many supports for sensory needs, including noise cancelling headphones, weighted lap pads and fidgets. All of our locations also own Sensory Discoveries Art kits which include items which can help adapt programming for children and adults of all abilities, such as adaptive scissors, Dot Art Painters, scented markers and triangular crayons. These items are available for use within the Library, just ask a staff member.
Many sensory-friendly toys are also incorporated into our everyday programming, such as the ASL, braille and textured blocks used for our playgroup series Family PlayShop. Over ten CLP locations host Storytime: Sensory Discoveries, which are dynamic, sensory based literacy programs developed with the learning needs of all children in mind. You can find upcoming dates and times for Storytime: Sensory Discoveries here; also check out Jessica’s post for an in depth look at what happens at a Sensory Discovery storytime. Every location has a different selection of sensory-infused furniture and toys, so feel free to call ahead of time if you are looking for a specific item. Your Library continues to adapt and change in order to support children of all abilities. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is for everyone!
Laura H. is part of the Carnegie Library’s Early Learning BLAST Outreach team. She loves reading, growing food in her garden and knitting things for her family. She is also a promising baseball pitcher, at least in the eyes of her four-year-old.