Although Brian Matthews was discussing college librarianship when he mused that “curating learning experiences” should be a future goal for librarians, I think that this sentiment also applies to public library experiences that cater to neurodivergent children and their families.
As a parent of a child who has learning differences , I’m struck by the importance of library programs such as Marsden Library’s sensory space. Private therapy is expensive and often not covered by insurance, and the therapy offered through the school system pauses for the summer months leaving parents struggling to find support. Libraries have the opportunity to provide a “third place” for these children and their families in an environment that echoes the connected learning core values of equity, participation, and social connection. It can feel isolating to have a child who has special needs, and libraries can become community hubs to unite parents with other people in their communities who may be facing similar challenges. It’s vital that families have space to connect outside of the restrictive and often fee-based spaces of clinics and doctors offices. Libraries with dedicated special spaces or play times can facilitate children’s joy, honest familial communication, and the sharing of stories and resources between adults. Just to know you aren’t alone is priceless.
There is also something unique about a space set up to explicitly foster parent/child interaction without the distractions of a busy work and school day. The chance to just slow down and enjoy each other’s company can be hard to come by in the busy lives we all lead. Especially when you have a child who is constantly shuttled back and forth between doctors, therapy, and school.
The public library is also a perfect place for experts such as SLPs to do educational outreach and even to do developmental screenings ) to try to reach children in need of early intervention therapy. Or as a place to provide hands-on training for parents to help their children at home, I believe that through programs like these, the public library can reach towards a “more immersive and transformative experience” for all of the members of its community.
Because all children should be able to enjoy the library…