Library provides ‘toolbox’ for children with communication barriers
While the library is typically a quiet place, Berkeley County is making an exception. Florence Lewis-Coker, the branch coordinator at the county’s main library in Moncks Corner, invited a group of
early intervention professionals to the library to spread the word about a new learning epicenter called the Young Learner’s Toolbox. About two years ago, the library received a grant to create a place where children with learning, language or communication barriers can obtain out-of-school, hands-on learning experience. The center features stacks of multi-sensory toys, learning kits and IPads. It also has open space for young children to play freely with the novelties. “I have been thinking of how I can make a difference in the life of a child with autism,” Lewis-Coker said.
Children with autism typically have communication challenges and struggle with social interactions. They often have delays in areas of development, such as learning to talk, Lewis-Coker said. The Learner’s Toolbox will ensure that such children are given the tools they need to develop vital skills. Local behavioral specialists said the center would be beneficial for their patients. “We’re going to get some ideas and maybe have the families to come…bring their kids here and work with some of these things,” said Becky Pettgrew, an early intervention specialist with Berkeley Citizens. “We take some [tools] into their homes. But to have the kids come to the library to work on this is a difference…they can work with other kids.”
Elizabeth Harvey with ABC Therapies said the program could voice a larger message. Typically, Harvey said, parents are leery about bringing special needs children to public places like church or the library where they are supposed to be quiet. “Those families become isolated. They don’t know where they’re welcome because the behaviors [are] very unpredictable,” Harvey said. The Learner’s Toolbox could be a place where ‘everyone is welcome’ and children can express themselves freely. “[The library] wants to meet everybody’s unique learning needs,” Harvey said. According to Lewis-Coker, Berkeley County Library System is the only county in the state with such a program and could serve as a prototype for other counties.