On 2th April , Šiauliai county Povilas Višinskis public library (ŠCPL) celebrated the World Autism Day. The specialists of ŠCPL led “Sensory Readings” – one of the most popular educational activities of the library for children of two pre-school educational institutions of Šiauliai city. Educational activities are aimed at children with Autism Spectrum disorders, language and communication difficulties, but in general they are great for all children. Education aims to convey the pleasure of reading using sensory tools, games, various tasks, open the enjoyment of reading books to children, enrich vocabulary, develop sensory sensations and improve communication skills.
On the World Autism Day, “Sensory Readings” were based on two books for children: Ingrid Godon’s “Nellie & Cezar”, which focused on stimulating the five human senses: touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing, and Rob Scotton’s book “Russell the Sheep” – during the reading children performed various activities such as counting sheep, touching cold ice, etc.
Live activities are usually held in a specially designed sensory space using special measures and tools, and are led by specially trained library staff. However, due to the quarantine situation, the library decided not to abandon children and their parents’ favorite educational activities and, like most other ones, they adapted the “Sensory Readings” to virtual space and constantly invite groups of children to register. It is gratifying that teachers enthusiastically cooperate and help to conduct educational activities in a virtual space.
In 2018, ŠCPL became the first autism-friendly library in Lithuania and has been implementing the educational program “Sensory Readings” for the third year in a row. The essence of these activities is to convey the story being told through the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell or taste) so that the child is able to understand it, if not completely, then at least partly. It has been observed that “Sensory Readings” promote the integration of children and their families and more frequent visits to public spaces. Society is also taught how to communicate with children with language and communication disorders while tolerance is being developed as well.
The good experience of “Sensory Readings” has been accumulated, the methodology is already being transferred to Šiauliai region and other Lithuanian public libraries, library specialists see the need to improve their qualification and organize “Sensory Readings” independently. From November 2020, by the initiative of ŠCPL, all Lithuanian public libraries has joined forces for the joint project “Library for All” and apply common infrastructural solutions, improve staff competencies, develop new services for visitors with Autism Spectrum and other language, communication and behavioral disorders. ŠCPL has published a methodological publication “Released Heroes: Sensory Readings in Libraries” for anyone who wants to organize sensory readings independently. This publication will soon reach Lithuanian libraries and is expected to be the first encouraging step in starting to organize “Sensory Reading” educational activities for its visitors.
Text by T. Pauliuscenka