Garden with us at Maze Branch

Join us as we dig in for the first full season of the Maze Branch Sensory Garden. Launched last fall with local families who have kids with disabilities, the garden is completely accessible and offers programs through summer and fall.

“We have a wide range of supports so anyone can come in and be comfortable and included,” says Children’s Librarian Shelley Harris. “Everyone deserves ways to be engaged in their community.”

Supported sensory gardening

In September, we launched the sensory garden in the outdoor courtyard on the south side of Maze Branch. In between stories and songs, we created a fairy garden and filled planters with edible kale, brightly colored peppers, and other plants and flowers selected for their texture, color, and scent.

This season we’re adding raised beds, and signs identifying the plantings, including labels in braille.

“There’s no one way to communicate,” Harris says. That’s why, among the supports like gloves if you don’t want to touch dirt, pads for kneeling, a bench for sitting, and grips to make tools easier to hold, we have augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) boards showing pictures and words related to gardening.

Maze Branch sensory garden tools

The AAC picture boards can supplement or replace verbal speech. For those in our community who use AAC to communicate, Harris says, “one of the best ways to make an inclusive, welcoming space is to have their language front and center.”

That’s why a permanent sign with an AAC board welcomes visitors to the garden off Harrison Street. “Now people who use AAC can see their language in their community,” Harris says. “For someone who uses AAC, that’s huge.”

Fidgets and Boardmaker

Making all visits accessible and fun

In addition to supported nature play and gardening programs, the library offers programs especially for those with disabilities, including supported cooking, yoga, and musical theater.

For all family programs and everyday visits, Harris asks, “What can we do around the library to make everyone’s visit accessible and fun?”

Supports available include weighted pillows, fidgets, visual schedules, scanner pens, noise-canceling headphones, resistance bands, wiggle seats, sensory brushes, and pinwheels (which can serve as a visual cue for deep, calming breaths). To access any of these at the Main Library, just ask at the Children’s Services desk.

Join us at upcoming events

Sensory Friendly Extra Hour
Friday, July 26, 9 am, Dole Branch.
The Dole Branch Library will open one hour early to allow families who have children or teens with disabilities and/or sensory sensitivities to explore the library in a way comfortable to them, with fewer crowds, fewer distractions, and dimmer lights. Spend time with librarians and find wonderful books to check out.

Supported Sensory Gardening
Mondays, July 22 & August 19, Maze Branch.
Join us to care for the daffodils that have bloomed and start planting new flowers and vegetables. Schedules and supports will be available to help all kids have fun and be successful. Best for families with children who have disabilities. Siblings and friends welcome.
Ages 7+: 3:30-4:15 pm
Ages 3-7: 4:30-5 pm

Supported Storytime and Play
Weekly on Tuesdays, 4-4:30 pm, Main Library Storytime Room.
For children with disabilities ages 3 and up with caregiver support. See more »

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