by Jeanne Millsap
Oct. 21, 2019
A room off the children’s area in the Morris Area Public Library has been transformed into a special space for children and teens with sensory processing disorders.
The Sensory Room is a combination of two changeable settings: A dim, quiet space for those who can become overwhelmed by visual and auditory sensory overloads, and a bright, colorful place for those who thrive on stimulation.
Brittney Kahuzny, with Coal City based autism awareness organization Hope Helps, assisted in designing the space. Kahuzny said people on the autism spectrum fall into many types, including sensory-avoiders and sensory-seekers. Two of her children are autistic, one a sensory-avoider and the other a sensory-seeker.
The sensory room was designed in part by the library’s Matthew Knott. The room is painted a calming pastel blue and purple, with toys with hands-on activities mounted on walls.
An acrylic holding table can be filled with water, sand and other tactile substances, while bins of toys and fidget-spinners sit in another corner.
Spread throughout are weighted blankets and sensory sacks for children who need comforting, and noise-canceling headphones for quiet breaks.
Library Trustee Angelique Minett attended the public opening of the space last week. She said the room is needed as many in the community have sensory processing issues, including one of her children.
“This is a really nice inclusive area where these children have a place to calm down and get what sensory stimulation they need,” she said.
Minett said children with sensory processing disorders need different activities to regulate themselves. The sensory room, she said, provides what they need.
The space can be a bright, colorful play and reading room and, with the flick of a switch, the lights can be dimmed and a bright aqua lamp turned down for a more serene environment.
Library Director Roberta Richter said funds for the room came from the Bowker/Ostrem Holderman-Meadors Endowment for Lifelong Learning, with help from Julianne Buck, of the Community Foundation of Grundy County. The endowment last year brought a children’s author to the library for a presentation and book-signing.
The room has already been used for two special children’s sensory story times, which will continue through October on Thursday mornings, led by Nikki Kiper. They also will be held Saturday mornings beginning in November, led by Starla Farmer.
From the beginning of her time at the library, Richter has kept an ear open for needs of the community that the facility can fill.
“We want to make sure these needs are met,” she said, “and that the kids feel comfortable there and that they are safe.”
Richter said the room is not open for drop-ins at this time, but rather for events such as the story time and is limited to 10 children at a time.
Staff also are looking at the possibility of screening movies in the room, as well.
“Because it’s so new, staff are looking for different kinds of programming,” Richter said. “We are looking for feedback from the community.”
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