JACKSON – An underutilized computer lab on the township library’s second floor will now offer a special environment for patrons who have developmental disabilities.
Similar to the one in the Toms River library, sensory spaces provide a calm, relaxing atmosphere designed to relieve stress and anxiety. The equipment in both spaces is visually stimulating and tactile, soothing and interactive.
Ocean County Library (OCL) administration and staff have been keenly aware of the increase in the number of patrons who have developmental disabilities, sensory processing disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dementia, and other issues, and therefore are increasing the services that are being offered to that population, as well as to their caregivers.
The cost of Jackson’s Sensory Space was around $35,000. This cost was not covered by any federal, state or county grant. Some additional equipment arrived recently.
According to library spokesperson Sherri Taliercio, “they are welcoming spaces to all members of our community. The rooms are similar, but not identical which is beneficial to visitors because while there is a feeling of familiarity and consistency between the spaces, there will also be a few different pieces of equipment to explore.”
“How the rooms are used and scheduling are similar between the spaces and can be found on the Ocean County Library website. The Jackson Sensory Space is a bit larger than the Toms River Sensory Space. The new Stafford Branch that will be built will also include a Sensory Space,” Taliercio added.
“We have some newer pieces of equipment,” librarian assistant Alec McQuade said. “We had a soft launch after January and our grand opening ceremony was early April.”
Since that time however, the room has continued to evolve.
“We added two wall panels which is our musical touch wall which is an electronic wall panel that follows the hand with different lights and sounds. We have different sound effects and color effects,” he said.
He said to the right of those walls is a thermochromic wall panel called Magic Hands “that takes the heat transfer from your hand and leaves an imprint and as it goes back to room temperature it fades back to black.”
“We also have these gel floor tiles that are liquid in tiles that when you stand on them the gel swishes around and you get a nice liquid effect from that and they make nice little stepping stones. We moved the block mat closer to the wall to make it less of a loud central point to the room,” he added.
A fiber optic waterfall is a central spot in the Sensory Space room. That features heat with color changing fiber optic lights. “There is a mirror on top so you can sit and have a nice simulation of your reflection and color changing lights and a little tactile simulation,” McQuade said.
Another new addition added after its official opening are squeeze cushions. McQuade explained, “they are chairs that are designed for pressure. Kids like to call them the hug chairs. They kind of squeeze you from the side.”
There are also sequin boards which have a two-tone effect “you can go up and down or side to side and we also have some color changing lamps and a wave projector that has sound effects. The most commonly used right now is different birds and crickets.” Movies are screened as special events.
McQuade said, “one thing we are doing now is that we have a shelf that holds a laptop and we have a screen that has constant looping videos that offers different relaxing things, ocean waves, nature, things like that.”
Since it has opened McQuade said he’s seen, “a decent mix of age groups. Mostly we get younger audiences, kids ranging from toddlers to those 10 to 12.”
“Peak times typically in the week are early afternoon/late morning. Weekends are early afternoon. Evenings tend to be slower. Friday seems to be our busiest day,” he added.
There is an eight-person limit and time spent in the Sensory Space is limited to a half hour and is available on a first come, first served basis. Hours of operation can be found at the OCL website or by calling the Jackson Library at 732-928-4400, ext. 3823.