Special Needs/Special Programming: Engaging Children & Adults with Special Needs

What if I told you that some of the most amazing people who visit our libraries are also the most underserved patrons? Warren-Newport Public Library is trying to change that by developing programs for children and adults with special needs.

On October 19, 2016 Adult Services Librarian Amy Longwell and I presented a session entitled "Special Needs/Special Programming: Engaging Children & Adults with Special Needs" at the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference. Here are highlights of our presentation:

Librarians at Warren-Newport Public Library have developed and presented programs for children and adults with special needs. Programs for children and their families include sensory storytimes, sensory playtimes and sensory movie matinees. These are welcoming and sensory inviting programs that engage children with music, stories, STEAM activities, crafts, movies and more. Special Mondays in the Library (SMILE) is for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities. This program has a passive-active-passive approach. Some active parts include mini golf and ball toss. Passive activities include crafts, snacks and other sitting activities. We always provide agendas for our attendees so they know the schedule of activities and when the next program will be.

Things kept in mind while planning these programs include the importance of having good volunteers, simple crafts, and schedules or routines that the patrons can rely on. Most importantly, be welcoming, flexible, understanding and have fun.

Are you hoping to provide great programs to the patrons with special needs in your community and need some help? Some great resources at your fingertips are: local school districts, your local special education districts, Pinterest, teacher and homeschool craft sites and, of course SNAILS.

This guest post was written by Jane Friess, Youth Services Librarian/School Liaison, of Warren-Newport Public Library. Jane can be reached at jfreiss(at)wnpl(dot)info. Thank you for sharing your experience and passion with us, Jane!