As frequently happens when one reaches out to help others, the giver gets something good in return. This has been the experience of the Library beginning in 2009. Buoyed by a grant from INFOLINK, the Eastern New Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, SBPL along with other area libraries committed themselves to developing programs targeting children affected by ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
While the money has long since been spent, special needs programming has now become a standard part of each week's agenda at SBPL, giving us an honored place in the lives of many new friends. It is estimated that about one in every 110 children (or 1% of all children in the United States) may have some form of ASD.
That first year really got the ball rolling for us. We connected with local and regional resources to offer parents and kids whatever we could including workshops, as well as fun and educational programs, many also included the siblings of children affected by ASD. Among the programs was an interactive music concert, Art Therapy, Creative Stacking, Read to a Therapy Dog, and even Yoga for Kids.
Some related program topics addressed other concerns such as diet and ADD/ADHD. In addition, Library staff created a how-to picture book about visiting the library. Copies were distributed for use in the Library of course, but also to the Township Health Department and to all of the special needs classes in the school district.
Well-attended programs showed that there was a need and desire for this kind of outreach outside of what was offered in schools. Library programs had the advantage of a community approach that brought the family together. But, enough about what we did. We are doing more today.
Our librarians are now regularly entering the special needs classrooms in the school district offering story times and cementing the Library-School connection.
The bi-monthly library newsletter The Compass includes a list of activities, usually scheduled on Wednesdays and Thursdays. These include the ever-popular Read to a Therapy Dog program, where a live dog trained to listen to young readers with and without special needs, comes into the library. We are also currently offering the Creative Craft program and Stories and Activities for Children with Special Needs and their Families. Efforts are continually made to juggle staffing to provide some evening programming for working parents.
The cherry on top if that these programs are offered free of charge. Library Registration is required for some of these programs so it is always a good idea to double-check with the Children's Department by calling (732)329-4000, ext. 7285. Special needs programs are now made possible with funds raised by the Friends of the Library. When you make a donation to the Friends, become a member, or make a purchase at a book sale or other Friend event you are helping to support library programming, including special needs. Thanks!
For more information on current special needs programs and on how you can help the Friends of the Library go to http://www.sbpl.info/ or call (732)329-4000, ext. 7286.