Library’s ‘SenseSational Story Time’ tailored to kids with sensory issues

Children love stories. But some need them told a little softer.

Lisa Lima, children’s program specialist at the Paula A. Lewis Branch Library, has created the SenseSational Story Time for them.

“It’s a sensory-sensitivity story time,” she said.

People with autism and some other conditions often have accompanying sensory processing disorders. For example, most folks hardly notice a clock ticking. To someone with sensory processing disorders that affects his or her hearing, the clock can sound many times louder than it does to others and be maddening. Because of this, people, especially children, with sensory disorders can have difficult times understanding stories and instructions. “We’re limiting it to 10 children,” Lima said. “We’re setting up a room that will be appropriate for them.”

The SenseSational Story Time – unlike most library programs – isn’t open to participants just showing up. Lima said children with sensory issues are unique. Each has their own needs and preferences.

“(Parents) need to call me, or come talk to me personally at the library,” Lima said.

Lima said she’ll learn about all the participating children’s needs and preferences. “I really want to know their names, so when they come in I can greet them,” she said.

Lima has a background working with children with autism and other qualifying conditions for Exceptional Education and Student Services programs.

“I’ve worked with ESE children, pre-school, for five years,” she said.

That was children in the state’s pre-kindergarten program. From that training, Lima knows that children with conditions that have accompanying sensory processing problems need more of a few things than others, and less of others. Lima said the SenseSational Story Time will be done in a room with softer lighting and fewer ambient sounds than usual.

Maureen Gallagher, branch supervisor, said the SenseSational Story Time will tap into some best practices among educators for working with the children with special needs. Each session will have two stories with a theme. “Everything will be a repetition of that theme,” Gallagher said. “We learned everything needs to be regimented and scheduled.”

The regimented scheduling is because children with autism and other conditions often become anxious an unable to learn if events seem unpredictable to them.

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder is a matter of much debate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s oft-cited figure is about 1 in 68 children have the condition. Others put the figure much higher. Some organizations point to the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health Survey to say it appears government data shows occurrences to be closer to 1 in 45 children. Because autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed based on behavioral evidence, and its causes are mysterious, its prevalence is likely to remain a matter of debate.

SenseSational Story Time is on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for the summer. Attendees must be registered and have accompanying parents or guardians. Siblings are welcomed to attend. To register, call Lima at 772-871-5484.

The Lewis Branch Library is at 2950 SW Rosser Blvd., Port St. Lucie. Information about all its programs is at www.stlucieco.gov.    

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