Storytime: Sensory Discoveries at Your Library!

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In late 2015, a group of Children’s Specialists at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh came together to develop a model for providing inclusive storytimes to children with all abilities: children on the autism spectrum, children with other disabilities whether developmental or physical and typically developing children. Research suggests that when children with all abilities are given the chance to learn, play and grow together in a relaxed, supportive environment, they thrive. After more than one year of research and thoughtful planning, we are very excited to offer Storytime: Sensory Discoveries, a dynamic, sensory-based literacy program developed with the learning needs of all children in mind.

Child playing with blocks in the Library
What is a sensory discovery?
We use our senses to discover, observe and interpret the world, and a sensory discovery is just that: using a sense to discover, observe and interpret, in other words, learn. In Storytime: Sensory Discoveries, we explore with our senses as we read, sing and play.

How does Storytime: Sensory Discoveries differ from other storytime programs offered at CLP?
Storytime: Sensory Discoveries in not unlike other storytimes. It differs in that it provides adaptations and modifications to support the needs of all children. Some of these adaptations and modifications include:

  • visual supports that allow children who may have difficulty with language and social cues to communicate more effectively
  • a visual schedule of events that helps children transition from one activity to the next
  • a controlled environment that minimizes negative sensory input and maximizes predictability, making all children more comfortable
  • small handheld manipulatives, weighted vests, noise-cancelling headphones and other tools to help children regulate their sensory systems
  • developmentally appropriate books, songs and activities presented using multiple formats and communication styles

What can I expect during Storytime: Sensory Discoveries?
During Storytime: Sensory Discoveries, we come together to read and sing for about 20 minutes. Because all children sometimes have a difficult time sitting still and listening, children and caregivers are always welcome to get up and move around during the program or take a break in a quiet space. Each child is encouraged to participate in his or her own way during storytime. When all children are included in the rich experience of being, communicating, learning and playing with their peers in a supportive environment, the benefits are manifold. After storytime, children and caregivers can stay to learn in the context of play and engage with their peers with and without disabilities, check out books, meet other families and talk to a Children’s Specialist about developmentally appropriate books and literacy activities. There’s never a need to worry that your child’s behavior is disruptive because it is different; we recognize and value all manners of safely being and behaving in our spaces.

Where can I attend Storytime: Sensory Discoveries?
Beginning this fall and continuing through Spring 2017, children birth through eight years of age along with their caregivers, siblings and friends can attend Storytime: Sensory Discoveries at two of our locations: CLP – Main and CLP – Hazelwood.

Briana is a Library Assistant at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, drinking strong coffee and exploring Pittsburgh.

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