Thu Dec 17 2020 05:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

New Sensory Space at OC Library Main Branch

The finishing touches are being added to a new sensory space on the second floor of the Ocean County Library's Main Branch on Washington Street, here, that will serve children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities.

"I want to commend the library staff and our library commissioners for their innovative approach to helping our citizens with autism," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, liaison to the Ocean County Library. "This room will serve as a centerpiece of our efforts to be all inclusive in the programs and services we provide at the library."

While it was anticipated the room would be open to the public earlier this year, those plans were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We look forward to its opening in the New Year," Vicari said.

In the meantime, library staff continue to add finishing touches to the room.

"The goal of the sensory space is to provide an area for children and adults with a variety of disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, cerebral palsy, memory loss, dementia and sensory processing disorders," said Ocean County Library Director Susan Quinn. "While these individuals are welcome to visit all areas of our library branch, this space is especially designed for them."

"Here we have provided a variety of products that are visually stimulating, tactile, calming and interactive," said Sara Siegler, Assistant Library Director. "The purpose of creating this space is to provide an environment that develops the senses, encourages communication and social interactions, relieves stress and anxiety, and produces a feeling of calm and well-being."

Vicari said the library recognizes that there are many residents of Ocean County who may not feel that they can go to the Library due to their varying degrees of sensory processing.

"The Ocean County Library is a leader in recognizing a need and addressing it in an effort to make sure the library is a place that everyone can visit," Vicari said. "There is a true sense of community that exists at all of our branches."

Once open to the public, Siegler said users will find an Iris Musical Touch Wall where they can engage in visual and auditory stimulation using musical sounds, shapes, numbers and a rainbow of colors; a Sensory Canopy which is a system of billowing, magnetic fabric sheets that go together to create a cloud-like ceiling; LED Light Illuminators that help with color recognition, increasing sensory stimulation and visual attention; a Bubble Mirror which creates entrancing optical illusions, and a Ocean Wave Ceiling Projector which is a mini-projector that combines ambient or other customizable audio, with colorful lighting effects to provide an ocean wave type of projection on any ceiling or wall to create a relaxing, enjoyable mood.

There will also be water and sand LED Play Light Cube that engages children in a dynamic sensory activity that promotes relaxation, and makes learning fun again with a waterproof and durable color changing cube; a Bubble Tube, a product that can be used to calm persons with dementia, or for relaxation as it cycles through hundreds of different shades to produce a calming, relaxing effect. In addition, there is also other lighting products and also furniture specifically made for the room.

"This new program has been a cooperative effort and a true partnership with librarians working with facilities staff to create this room," Vicari said.

Vicari added that the Ocean County Library has been a longtime advocate for individuals with autism and other disabilities. "This room really stems from the annual Autism Fair hosted by the library usually in April in recognition of Autism Awareness Month," Vicari said.

Quinn noted that when the library's in-person 2020 Autism Resources Fair was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the library staff worked behind the scenes to continue the work of the Autism Resources Fair and support the community by creating an Autism Resources Center. The Autism Resources Center is available on the Library's website at http://theoceancountylibrary.org/autism

The Autism Resources Center includes Resources for Caregivers, Autism-Related Library Programs and Autism-Related Community Events.

"The library also provides resources that are designed to assist both the individual with autism and his or her caregivers during these challenging times," Quinn said.

The Ocean County Library Commissioners in October dedicated the Toms River Sensory Space in honor of Vicari.

"This action recognizes Freeholder Vicari's strong support for the Ocean County Library including its many initiatives to support children, families, and people with Autism Spectrum Disorder," said Ruthanne Scaturro, Chair of the Ocean County Library