Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don't miss Handicap This! at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie

Grab your calendar and circle Saturday, November 1 because you do not want to miss Handicap This!

What started out as a friendship between Mike Berkson (who has cerebral palsy) and Tim Wambach (who does not) grew into a partnership and a passion to make minds handicap accessible. Through their comedic theatrical performances, Mike and Tim share the message of inclusion and tolerance, often bringing audiences to laughter and tears.

Handicap This! is playing at North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie on Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 8:00pm. Tickets are $26.00 and $36.00.

If you plan to go, please leave a comment below so I can share the coupons that were dropped off at Skokie Public Library and we can meet up before the show!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Facilitating Play Workshop at November Mtg

The fall meeting of SNAILS will be held on Wednesday, November 12 at Batavia Public Library at 9:30am. We're looking forward to seeing all of our west suburban friends and hoping library staff from the other local suburbs will join us as well. We'll be hearing a short presentation about Lekotek's play therapy services, professional memberships, and library programs; meeting Jo Kaeding, a librarian and PhD candidate from Australia; and learning about Batavia's library services for children with special needs.  Please RSVP to
 After lunch, from 1:00 to 3:00pm, attendees are welcome to stay for a two-hour workshop led by Lekotek play experts.   This two-hour workshop will be offered at $25 per person, if we have a minimum of 22 people in attendance.  If more are interested in attending, the cost will be less. Please email by Friday, October 24 if you are interested in attending.  We'd love to have a great group!

For an overview of the Facilitating Play workshop, see below.

This course will help teach how to connect children of all abilities with benefits of the play experience.  It is geared towards parents, caregivers and professionals, librarians and library staff.  It delivers strategies and tactics to facilitate play with children of all abilities.  Workshop includes handouts, video observations and presentation and hands-on activities.  Attendees will...
  • Bring out a child's true potential through play
  • Learn strategies to play with children
  • Understand how to follow a child's lead and why that is important
  • Expand the play experience while still following the child's lead
  • Facilitate repetition play activity to solidify learning
  • Use verbal and non-verbal cues to provide positive reinforcement

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Board Game and Pizza Night for Tweens of All Abilities

Today's guest blog post was written by Paula Shapiro.  Paula is currently a Youth Services Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library in Deerfield, Illinois.  Thank you, Paula, for making this fantastic contribution to the SNAILS community!

I always have loved working with tweens. I think they are interesting, funny, insightful and often trying to find a way to fit in.  With that said, as most of us can attest, it can be tough to be a tween! There is not a lot of programming out there for tweens with special needs and I believe that this type of programming is important and beneficial to kids of all abilities. With the help of our wonderful teen librarian, Nina Michael, we started to plan our first program: Board Game and Pizza Night For Tweens of All Abilities.   

The vision was to have it be a buddy-type program where we paired up neuro-typical tweens with tweens with special needs.  Here is the  visual schedule (from Boardmaker) that I made for the evening:

How did we get this program off the ground? 
“It takes a village” is what comes to mind. Nina and I went to one of the area middle schools where we met with the social worker, teachers and student council meetings. We passed out flyers, spoke to parents, visited classrooms, and put the information on the district website. We were very lucky to have such a supportive and welcoming district.

Truthfully, I had no idea how many kids were going to show up. When 20 signed up, Nina and I were blown away.  We were thrilled (and a little nervous!).  We did not know which kids had special needs and which were neuro-typical.  I didn’t want the parents to have to fill out a lot of forms/questionnaires.  I wanted this program to be fun for the kids as well as not be a hassle for the parents. They fill out enough forms.

I sent an email to those who had signed up and asked who wanted to be a buddy and who was in need of a buddy. I also asked if anyone needed any type of accommodations.  From these emails, I learned that some of the tweens were non-verbal, one needed help eating, one was in a wheelchair, and a few were on the spectrum. I also learned that not all the kids wanted to be buddied up.

As we all know when planning programs, flexibility and being open to try new things is very important.   And from this, we can learn and grow, right? Well, for me, panic and fear came before learning and growing! My neat and tidy plan of buddying up the kids was not going to work. I didn’t want to force anyone to be a buddy. So we went to Plan B: we brought in some high schoolers to help out.

The result?   
It went so far past my expectations. The kids had a great time. Everyone was kind and helpful.  Almost everyone who left asked when we were going to have another event.  It was truly was one of the most memorable nights of my career! 

Why did it work? 
It worked for many reasons: amazing partnerships, parental and school involvement, wonderful tweens, and dedicated high school volunteers.

I learned so much from that night. I learned that there is a huge need for this kind of programming.   I learned that the high school volunteers played a vital role in the evening’s success. They assisted those who needed extra help and were great role models.   I learned that every single tween in that room benefitted from the night. Many of the kids who attended weren’t the “cool kids” (by middle school standards; by my standards they were the coolest kids ever).  We had tweens who were homeschooled and from private schools.  I learned that I will keep this model of not assigning specific buddies.  Some of those in attendance had never interacted with people with special needs.

This program was a wonderful opportunity for kids who didn’t feel ready or comfortable enough to have a buddy on their own.  It created a more safe and fluid environment.  Everyone interacted with different people. It truly felt like a safe zone which was free of judgment. I don’t think that happens very often for these young people.  Kids of all abilities need a place they can feel comfortable and this fit the bill. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Online Learning Opportunity: Children with Disabilities at Your Library

Don't miss Webjunction's upcoming FREE webinar entitled "Serving the Underserved: Children with Disabilities at Your Library."  This presentation shares inspiring programming and innovative ideas for libraries to serve children with special needs.  It is hosted by Renee Grassi, Youth Department Director at the Glen Ellyn Public Library.

Click here to register!

: October 21, 2014

Time: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time (1-2:30 CST)

Webinar Description
Whether large or small, rural or urban, all library communities serve patrons with special needs. Developing an awareness of and sensitivity to children with disabilities is crucial for providing top-notch library services. This webinar shares inspiring programming and innovative ideas for new services to target this special population. Learn about what online resources are available for staff to serve children with special needs more fully, and explore strategies to reevaluate and make new accommodations in existing youth programs for an inclusive audience.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Summer 2014 Meeting Recap

The Deerfield Public Library hosted the August SNAILS meeting at their redesigned library. Tamara Kaldor from Chicago Play Pro was the featured guest speaker who shared information about using apps with children with disabilities. We also welcomed Paula Shapiro, Youth Services Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library, who shared what her library has done to serve children and tweens with special needs. Below is a recap of the meeting, but be sure to stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post highlighting in more detail Paula's innovative buddy program for tweens of all abilities.

Using Apps with Children with Special Needs
Tamara is a developmental therapist and advocate for people with disabilities at Chicago Play Pro. Her primary focus is working with children with special needs, but for the last several years, she has worked with librarians to help train and promote accessibility and inclusion in public libraries. As she explained during her presentation, "When I think about technology and kids, in the world of special needs and learning disabilities, the iPad is a game changer. It's a new pen, a new notebook. It breaks barriers. It gives a voice to children that had done. While technology can be given the stigma of being the big divider, for people with disabilities, the iPad is the great connector." Her presentation included an overview of apps to use with children with special needs that promote and support life skills, communication skills, play, and a love of learning and reading. She also shared ideas about how to use apps in existing library programs and services.

Here is a list of the various apps that were covered in Tamara's presentation:

Visual schedules

Choiceworks creates customizable, shareable, and printable visual schedules, preloaded with already created stories about feelings and emotions
Choiceworks Calendar creates personalized calendar with visual supports, features settings to create a countdown to what's coming next to alleviate anxiety, ability to import photos into event calendar with alarms
First Then offers simple choice boards for simple choice making

Book Making
Book Creator: standard in special education classrooms, can be preloaded with sounds, videos and pictures, option to record voice and import that into the book; not always compatible to send via email
Keynote: the Apple version of PowerPoint to create customizable books
Super Hero Comic Book Maker: elementary school aged app for kids to create their own stories
Comic Life: used in schools, elementary and middle school aged app, great for visual learners

Tico Timer: timer and music is customizable, includes relaxing visuals, great for young and older children
Stop and Go: basic timer with red, yellow and green flashlight image
Smore: website for creating interactive flyers and newsletters with printable, quality templates

Open Play
Toca Tea Party: open play app for practicing and encouraging imagination and pretend play
My Play Home: examples of real learning end experiences, diverse representation of family members

Other Online Resources
  • edshelf: resource to create customizable handouts of apps in easy to use format, great idea for parent handout resources
  • free resource designed for teachers to give students movement breaks, easy to use videos to implement in storytimes for kids that would benefit from tech sensory breaks
  • GoAnimate: website where you can type in words and choose voices for animated creatures
  • ThingLink: online hotspots that link to videos, photos, or content published online (website and app)
  • Toca Boca  and Duck Duck Moose: great quality apps that are fun and easy for children to use
  • TEC Center at Ericson Institute: includes a list of educator resources for librarians about technology and early childhood education
Ideas for Implementation at Your Library
  • Create a social story for kids about the library to prepare them for a visit to the library
  • Send a visual schedule to parents via email before a program to prepare their child for a particular library program
  • Print and laminate a visual schedule for kids that corresponds with the activities in the program; use a dry erase marker to check off the activities as they are completed
  • Print out a "When I get angry" book; have it displayed in the youth department for families to use and read while they are at the library
  • Use a projector to display a visual timer or a board
  • Have a sensory break space in the library to help kids practice being more calm
  • Create a monthly calendar with images and importable photos to promote upcoming pictures, post a screenshot of the calendar
  • Use a book creating app to encourage children to make their own stories about life experiences, this is especially useful for children with visual impairments because you could enlarge text and pictures
  • Host a volunteer project program at your library, have teens and adults help to create adapted books for kids with special needs
  • Take pictures of kids during program and send kids photos about what happened during the program, assists with sequencing and helps kids enjoy what happened during program at home
  • If you don't have any digital versions of flannel board pieces or storyboards to send via email, take pictures of them and sent them out to families in advance so that the children can anticipate what rhymes or stories are coming up
  • Share apps at youth department meeting so that everyone is familiar with apps, this is particularly useful to keep up with technology's constant updates and allow staff to focus on exploring on their own
  • Genius Kid Hour program idea: kids showcasing apps and teaching others how to play and learn, allows kids to have leadership capabilities