New sensory garden at Maze Branch brings fall fun for kids with special needs

October is National Disability Awareness Month. All month, families and kids with special needs can find fun at the library, with programs featuring stories, songs, and movement, plus tools and supports to help all children be successful.

The fun includes yoga, spooky stories, and exploration of our just-launched sensory garden at Maze Branch.

Maze Branch sensory garden tools

Accessible and appealing to the senses

In September, families joined us to help create a new 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.

“Everything is completely accessible,” said Children’s Librarian Shelley Harris. “As the garden develops, we’ll add signs identifying the plantings, including plant names in braille. By spring, we plan to have a fully accessible raised bed for families to explore.”

Families attending monthly programs in the garden will find supports like foam pads to kneel on, garden tools with foam-wrapped handles so they’re easier to grip, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) boards that show words and pictures related to gardening.

Augmented and alternative communication

“There’s no one way to communicate,” Harris said, noting that October is also International AAC Awareness Month. “People think of verbal communication, but there are also gestures we use, there’s our body language, the expressions on our faces. They all add up to how we express ourselves.”

The AAC boards, made up of squares with pictures and words, may supplement verbal speech or replace it completely.

“Someone may use AAC as their primary mode of communication, and augment it with signs and a couple of verbal words,” Harris said. “For others, it may be harder to verbalize when they’re scared or nervous, so it’s helpful to have the board as a backup form of communication.”

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

Events this month

Supported Storytime and Play
Saturday, October 6, 2-2:30 pm, Main Library
Tuesdays, 4-4:30 pm, Main Library
Bon appetit! Join us for cooking stories and fun. This class is designed for children with special needs ages 3 and up with caregiver support. Classes are structured with Boardmaker schedules and include fun picture books and songs, along with fine and gross motor movement activities. Monthly themes will culminate in special activities. Special supports like lap weights and fidget toys are available to help children be successful. Siblings welcome.

Supported Yoga and Stories
Friday, October 19, 4-4:30 pm, Main Library. Join Natalie from Talk Toomey Háblame Speech Pathology Services for a literacy and movement class geared toward those with speech, language, and special needs. The class will offer opportunities to enhance vocabulary and comprehension and explore yoga poses. No experience is necessary. Best for kids ages 3-13 with a caregiver. Siblings welcome.

Haunted Trails Tales in the Park
Monday, October 22, 6:30-7:30 pm, Main Library and Scoville Park.
 Get in the Halloween mood with spooky stories! Families will follow paths with story spots to hear various seasonal scares. Choose between light fright, best for ages 3-6, or spine-chilling tales for brave 6-11 year olds. A fully accessible, stationary storytime will also be available for all, including those with sensory challenges. Costumes encouraged.

Supported Sensory Gardening
Wednesday, October 24, 3:30-4:30 pm, Maze Branch Courtyard. What’s been growing in our new accessible sensory garden? See what has changed in the last few weeks, take care of the plants, and paint monster rocks for our fairy garden. We will provide tools and supports for kids and adults with disabilities to successfully explore working in a garden. Best for families with children ages 3+, with a caregiver, and adults who want to share gardening with children.

See all events »

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