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Submitted by Whatcom County Library System

April is Autism Acceptance Month, and the Whatcom County Library System is taking part by rolling out sensory kits at all county library locations. The kits include essential items to support the sensory needs of autistic children and adults during library visits. Items in the sensory kits are recommended by the University of Washington iSchool Autism-Ready Libraries project.

The kits include noise reduction headphones to block unwanted auditory stimuli; glare reducing sunglasses to mitigate unwanted visual stimuli; visual communication cards to support communication for nonspeaking or minimally speaking children; and a tangle fidget toy to calm tactile sensory stimulus. Sensory kits are available at the information counter of each WCLS library. Items may be borrowed while visiting the library.

WCLS Youth Services Assistant Anglina Kuchar brought the idea to the library system after attending an Autism-Ready Libraries training. Kuchar, who works at the Deming and North Fork libraries, created and tested a sensory kit for the Deming branch where it has been positively received by patrons. She also integrated autism-aware program techniques such as visual aids to show children what to expect during Storytimes.

“Integrating autism-aware techniques in our Storytimes and providing sensory kits affirm our commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming space for everyone,” Kuchar says. “We don’t want parents and caregivers to skip library programs because they’re concerned their child may disturb other patrons. We welcome autistic people. The ability to borrow an item from a sensory kit can enhance a visit to the library.”

According to the Autism Society of America, autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. In a press release, the Autism Society wrote: “One in 36 children is diagnosed with autism, which can be attributed to a variety of factors, primarily improved diagnostic screening and identification, as well as an increased prevalence rate itself.” Autism Acceptance Month highlights issues affecting people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families, educates the public on support services, and celebrates and destigmatizes the perspectives of those living with ASD. For more information, visit AutismSociety.org.

About WCLS

Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) serves Whatcom County residents outside the city limits of Bellingham through online resources (wcls.org) and at 10 branches: Blaine, Deming, Everson, Ferndale, Island (Lummi Island), Lynden, North Fork (Kendall), Point Roberts, South Whatcom (Sudden Valley) and Sumas. WCLS also has a bookmobile (serving Glenhaven, Birch Bay, Wickersham, Lake Samish) and a Library Express on Northwest Drive. Apply for a free library card at any location or online at wcls.org/getacard

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