Two learning opportunities

On May 1st, I presented a workshop for the Massachusetts Library System called “Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Library: Reaching,Engaging, and Serving Your Local Special Needs Community.”  In it, I go over why it is important to offer programs for this population and how to go about setting up and marketing a program.  I also go into detail about the Sensory Storytime I offer at Reading Public Library.  You can watch the archived webinar here:

Also, this summer, ALSC will once again be offering Barbara Klipper’s online course “Sensory Storytime: Preschool Programming That Makes Sense for Kids with Autism.”  I took this online course in the fall of 2011 while I was preparing to start my own Sensory Storytime.  I learned a lot of got some great ideas from Barbara.  See info about the course and how to register.

Add comment May 18th, 2013 Ashley Waring

Using the iPad in Sensory Storytime

Our Children’s department recently obtained an iPad for staff use.  I have used it in my Sensory Storytime the past two months, and it is a real hit with the kids and their grown-ups!  I made a new image for our visual schedule to let them know that we’ll be using the iPad in storytime. IMG_4636
Here’s what I’ve done:

  • Animal Sounds Game –  I got this idea from Little eLit.  I downloaded the app recommended and used the rhyme suggested.  Not all of the animal sounds are easy enough for this group, but I successfully used about 6 animals.
  • Wheels on the Bus song – I went to Google images, and found pictures of a school bus wheel, wipers, driver, etc.  I saved them to the iPad and created a “Wheels on the Bus” photo album.  Then I showed the kids a new picture before each verse to clue them in to what we were going to sing about next.  It was a great way to take a song all the kids already know and turn it into something new and exciting.

Add comment April 20th, 2013 Ashley Waring

MA Autism Commission Report

MA-sealThe Massachusetts Autism Commission just published their report this March.  The Commission’s mission was to “investigate and study the range of services and supports necessary for individuals to achieve their full potential across their lifespan.”

Visit the Commission’s website, or read the full report here.

Add comment April 20th, 2013 Ashley Waring

Sensory Storytime: A Year (plus) in Review

I have over a year of Sensory Storytimes under my belt now.  (Wow!)  I thought I’d look back on my notes and share what has worked well for me since I started my storytimes in October 2011.

Favorite Books

Press Here by Herve Tullet
I stand up and walk around the room while I read it, allowing each child to take a turn interacting with the book. Parents love this one, too!

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
I made a felt dog and colored dots; the kids take turns finding the right color and putting it on Dog.

Circle in the Sky by Zachary Wilson
I have felt shapes that match the shapes in the book; the kids take turns finding the right shape and helping to “build” our rocket. At the end, we countdown and “launch” the rocket to the moon. (I lift the feltboard up into the air.) I like this book because it has both shape and color identification while telling a simple story.

It’s My Birthday by Helen Oxenbury
I made felt ingredients to match the book. The kids take turns choosing the right ingredient and putting it into my mixing bowl. At the end, I present a felt cake and top it with candles. Then we sing “Happy Birthday” to the boy in the book.
Warning: Some kids are upset by this song. Let parents know you are going to sing it, and they can cover ears or otherwise reassure their child.

If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley
I love almost any book I can sing. I made visual cues that match the book – a picture of hands clapping for “smack your claws,” a face yelling for “give a roar,” etc. I put these up and the kids love to sing and act out this song. The pictures are bold and bright, and more silly than scary.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
I hand out egg shakers and have the kids follow me in making a nice rhythm.  Then we read the book to the beat.  All the participants love the egg shakers, and the “typical” kids who know the book well enjoy interacting with it in a new way.

Down by the Station by Jennifer Riggs Vetter
Another book I can sing!  I have felt vehicles that match many pages in the book (I skip some pages or else it’s too long for my group).  The kids take turns identifying the vehicle and putting it on the felt board. Then we all sing together!

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
I made a felt cat and colored shoes.  With a small group, I’d have the kids take turns putting the shoes on Pete. As it was, I read this to a very large group, so the kids got to help by guessing what color his shoes would be next.  They also helped sing the “I love my _____ shoes” refrain.

Favorite Songs

The Bubblegum Song – This is the song I use with our Therabands. I learned this song waaaay back when my son was in early intervention. We don’t clap when we sing, instead we stretch our Therabands. I give each kid a turn choosing where they would like the bubblegum to stick.
Reminder: Give processing time. If you ask a child “Where do you want the bubblegum to stick?” and they don’t answer right away, count to 5 in your head before you ask again. Maybe give that child a choice: “Do you want it to stick to your chin or your knee?”

Rainbow Song – I let each child pull a scarf from the scarf box, then we wave them around while we sing this song.  I give each kid a chance to decide what we will sing about next. “What is something blue we can sing about?” See my pointer above about processing time and choices, which are both useful here.

Do you have any books or songs that work really well for your group?  Please share them in the comments. Thanks!

3 comments January 23rd, 2013 Ashley Waring

Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

autism book coverAvailable in 2013 from ALA Editions
Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Lesley S. J. Farmer
Looks like it could be a great resource for the entire staff, but especially youth services librarians who want to reach this audience.

Add comment October 10th, 2012 Ashley Waring

Current Trends in Autism Conference

For anyone who might be interested in gaining A LOT of further knowledge about autism, the 16th annual Current Trends in Autism conference will be in Boston on Nov. 9th and 10th. I’ve been to this conference in the past and can say it is very informative!

Add comment October 10th, 2012 Ashley Waring

MLA 2012 Universal Access Presentation

On Wednesday, May 9, I participated in a panel discussion on the topic of Universal Access in youth services at the MLA annual conference in Worcester.

As part of my presentation, I put together a great resource list for MA librarians looking for information about universal access and services for families with special needs children. Here it is:Universal Access Resources

And here is my Prezi:

If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch!

Add comment May 11th, 2012 Ashley Waring

Programming with Early Intervention

Although I have offered storytimes for special needs families, I’ve also offered other kinds of programs too. In March I collaborated on a program with clinicians from one of our Early Intervention agencies. The event was for everyone in the family so it was a mix of special needs kids and their siblings.

I have worked with EI staff before and I can’t say enough good things about them. I really liked having them on board as they are trained occupational therapists who work with special needs kids. They are extremely knowledgeable about appropriate and engaging activities. Nothing like bringing in the experts!

We decided we would offer a drop-in event that would feature a few different activities. Coloring and stickers were two activities. We also provided a “Thomas the Tank Engine” tent for children to sit in. When we were planning the program we originally envisioned the tent as a quiet and contained spot – a place for kids to re-group. To our surprise, during the program, the tent became a moving and grooving train as the kids would climb inside and crawl around to make the train move. They had a ball and it was very popular. It turned out to be a great way for kids to get out their wiggles and jiggles.

As I said, it’s terrific to have the input of the experts. It was the EI clinicians who came up with the most popular activity – bath foam art. Bath foam is squeezed onto tables and kids use their hands and different tools to make designs. The clinician also brought in screens that connected. Two sides were solid and two were mirrored. We squeezed the bath foam on the screens for the kids to play with. The clinician brought paint brushes and rollers that kids used to work the foam. The foam is great as it doesn’t stain and kids used paper towels or baby wipes to clean up.

We also had a special guest – Sir Topham Hatt. Sir Hatt sat in a corner and read Thomas stories. None of the children sat quietly and listened and it appeared that they weren’t interested. Not so! Most of the kids paced near Sir Hatt. The minute he stopped reading a child would hand him another book. One little boy loved “Thomas the Tank Engine” and once he became comfortable in the situation, stood right next to Sir Hatt, pointing to the pictures and demanding “More!” The boy spent most of his time with Sir Hatt.

This was a drop-in event. Families could stop by any time between 10 AM and 11:30 AM. Most came closer to 10 AM and stayed the entire session. It was our first time offering this program and we had a smallish group but I think that was a benefit as it was easier for us to manage and assess the activity. I think a smaller number of participants helps the kids feel more comfortable. For kids with sensory issues a large group might be too loud and active. It was also easier to share the materials and nobody had to wait his or her turn.

To see photos from the event check out our Pollard Library’s Autism Guide blog.

Add comment April 24th, 2012 Molly Hancock

Book Review: Finding Kansas

Finding Kansas: Living and decoding Asperger’s syndrome by Aaron Likens

Likens, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at 20, has written not a self-help book but a rigorous examination of his life so far.  Similar to Temple Grandin’s first book, Emergence, this title provides a unique window into a complex inner world. Likens describes the joys in his life: auto racing, race-flagging, the comfort of rule-based games, even airport layovers. He also explains his concept of Kansas—a place where he feels calm, capable, and whole. Likens is honest about painful moments too, from the former girlfriend who told him no one would want to date a person with Asperger’s, to his hatred of school, to his opinion that he is completely unlikable. Aaron is an affecting
writer and speaker for Asperger’s.

This absorbing and ultimately hopeful book is recommended for young people with Asperger’s and their family, friends, and colleagues, as well as for fans of Grandin and of John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. A perfect pick for April, which is Autism Awareness Month.—Elizabeth Safford, Nevins Memorial Lib., Methuen, MA

Library Journal, April 1, 2012

(Thank you to Beth for sending her review along to us!)

Add comment April 20th, 2012 Ashley Waring

Book review: Temple Grandin

temple grandin coverTemple Grandin: how the girl who loved cows embraced autism and changed the world by Sy Montgomery

I highly recommend this new biography for upper elementary and teens about Temple Grandin.  You learn so much about animals, about autism, and about Temple’s amazing life.  I reviewed the book for the Horn Book Magazine, and it recently got a starred review in SLJ.  Here is a link to the book’s reviews, at author Sy Montgomery’s webpage.

Add comment April 10th, 2012 Ashley Waring

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