TOMS RIVER –Ocean County officials and representatives of the County Library system gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the grand opening of a Sensory Space on the second floor of the township branch of the Ocean County Library.
With ceremonial scissors in hand, Ocean County Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari, joined Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Gary Quinn, members of the Ocean County Library Commission and library staff to mark the opening of the facility that will serve children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other disabilities.
Vicari commended the library staff and commissioner “for their innovative approach to helping our citizens with autism and other disabilities. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Library system, said, “this room serves as a centerpiece of our efforts to be all inclusive in the programs and services we provide at the library.”
Ocean County Library Director Susan Quinn said the project was staff driven. “I want to thank each and every one of them for the work that was contributed to make this a reality.,”
“While individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities are welcome to visit all areas of our library branch, this space is especially designed for them,” she added.
OCL Assistant Library Director Sara Siegler explained that the idea of creating a sensory space began after hearing negative stories in the news about experiences those with autism were having out in public.
The Library’s Autism Resources Fair, traditionally held each April, also helped inspire the concept.
“After reading articles in the news about people having bad experiences in public places with relatives who have autism, I knew we had to do better, to make a place that people could come to and not have to worry. I am so grateful that Commissioner Vicari and Ocean County Library Director Quinn gave us the go ahead to work on creating a space that would help so many families that come through our library,.” Siegler added.
The purpose behind 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.
The facility has a variety of items that are visually stimulating, tactile, calming and interactive. 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.
“This new space will give families who have relatives with a disability the opportunity to get to enjoy what the Ocean County Library has to offer,” Ruthanne Scaturro, who serves as Chairperson for the Ocean County Library Commission said.
She added, “libraries have come such a long way from just being a room full of books and this is a great stepping off point for more sensory spaces to be created at the other library branches.”
Some of the innovative features of the sensory space include:
• IRiS Musical Touch Wall, using musical sounds, shapes, numbers and colors for visual and auditory stimulation.
• Sensory Canopy of billowing, magnetic fabrics that create an impression of clouds overhead.
• LED Illuminators for aid in color recognition, sensory stimulation and visual attention.
• LED Play Light Cube, a durable, sensory activity object that encourages relaxation and learning for children.
• LED Chromatherapy Fiber Optic Softie Sensory Beanbag Chair, for comfort and safe, enjoyable sensations through tactile fiber optic strands.
• Fiber Optic Color-Changing Light Waterfall, providing tactile stimulation through touch and manipulation, and visual impressions of changing, bending lights.
• Vibroacoustic Long Easy Chair, which magnifies musical vibrations emanating from the connected source, allowing sound to be felt as well as heard.
“I want to thank everyone on the Ocean County Library staff, as well as the Ocean County Library Commission, Commissioner Vicari and everyone else who was involved in creating this sensory space,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Quinn.
“This is a great feature for our library to have, and on behalf of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners I commend Commissioner Vicari on all the support that he puts into the Ocean County Library system,” he added.
While the room was originally slated to open last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, those plans were pushed back.
More information on the Sensory Space can be found on the Ocean County Library website, theoceancountylibrary.org/sensory-space.