Twice a month, the Laurel County Public Library hosts Sensational Sensory Storytime sessions for children on the autism spectrum from ages 3-8 years of age.
The American Psychiatric association added sensory sensitivities to autism diagnoses in 2013. These sensitivities can manifest in the form of hyper and hypo sensitivities to certain sights, sounds, tastes, touches, scents, and a wide range of other stimuli.
Through the Sensational Sensory Storytime program, the people at the library hope to provide a fun and educational experience for kids on the autism spectrum by accommodating to any sensory needs.
Raina Brown, Children's Services manager at the Laurel County Library, has been running the program since its inception almost a year ago. She went in depth speaking about the activities that children can take part in throughout the sessions.
“A lot of the time children on the autism spectrum have sensory issues and do better with more hands-on activities," she said. "They can learn in a different way and respond differently to sensory stimulus. We have lots of different things for them to play with, all of our toys and activities are geared toward children on the autism spectrum or children with other sensory disorders. It’s a different way to explore and learn. It’s a less structured approach, we let the children choose what they want to participate in.”
The storytelling sessions take a much less traditional approach than that of similar experiences offered in the classroom. There is a sense of freedom applied to the event. Any child participating is free to pick and choose what activities they will be taking part in on their own time, whether that be listening to this session's story or playing with any of the toys or games set up it's up to whatever the child is most comfortable with.
For Friday's session, Brown read two stories, "Dog’s Colorful Day" by Emma Dodd and "What’s Next Door" by Nicola O’Byrne.
Apart from the selected stories, there are also a wide variety of toys and games available for children at the event. This includes puzzles, tents, stuffed animals, a chalk board, and several items designed with children on the autism spectrum in mind.
“The toys are very tactile. We have magnetic tiles that they can build with and tactile letters and recognition cards. We have lacing bears and beads that help find and develop motor skills. We have number recognition puzzles,” Brown said.
Other toys include special sensory bins that see totes filled with beads for children to play around in and water-based games.
To help work around the busy schedules of parents and guardians, two of the storytime sessions are held per month and at different times. Morning sessions are held from 10 a.m. to noon, while evening sessions are held from 5 to 7 p.m. Attendees are welcome to arrive whenever they like and stay for as long as they want. If the child wishes to take a break and return later, that is accepted as well.
The sensory events held at the library aren’t exclusively catered to children. Like Family Sensory Saturday, a program for all ages and all abilities that includes activities similar to those held during the story time sessions.
The next Sensational Sensory Storytime session will be held February 24 from 5 to 7 p.m..