What is neurodiversity?
Have you heard the term neurodiverse, neuroatypical or neurodiversity being used more recently? People who identify with being neurodiverse may also seek sensory-friendly experiences due to sensory sensitivity or sensory overload.
The neurodiverse experts are in our communities
For example, over the past few years, the Burnaby Public Library has been going outside the walls of the library to meet the needs of the community. It has been an important switch to listen and learn about how the library can support all individuals. This has been a shift from the library seeing themselves as “the experts” and instead, listening to the voices within the community where the real experts are.
It all started with a very special friend of library staff Denise’s. This friend, a mom, told her that she would never bring her son, Theo* to the library. For instance, Theo’s mom sees the library as a traditionally quiet space. And a place where her son would be “shushed”. Moreover, she was fearful that people would judge his behaviour as they would not understand he is neuroatypical. Furthermore, she was even more fearful that people would be judgmental of her parenting choices. As a result, at the library, with this feedback, we recognized we were not supporting this family in the way we wanted to. Importantly, we realized that we had to change. We want to help the neurodiverse community feel welcome at our library. Therefore, our journey to connect with neurodiversity began.
Welcoming people who identify with neurodiversity
Our steps to be welcoming to everyone led us to seek out and develop relationships with the neurodiverse community. For instance, we know we need to hear from them directly. We seek to understand what they want and need to make visiting the library a successful and pleasant experience for all. For example, we heard from the community about the need to provide sensory tools. These sensory tools would help to support people while visiting the library. Since receiving this feedback, we have purchased sensory equipment, like weighted lap pads as an example, to help those who experience sensory sensitivity or sensory overload.
In partnership with the Autism Society of British Columbia, we are working towards developing a safe space for children to be themselves. Moreover, we want parents to have a chance to build face-to-face relationships during our Sensory Friendly Library Hour. The first event will take place on March 27, 2020, at the Cameron Library.
Thanks to our partnership with Autism BC, we have also created a story about what to expect while visiting the Cameron Branch of our Library.
Please join us for our Sensory Friendly Library Hours in the future. We look forward to making your library visit warm and welcoming to everyone in the community, including anyone who identifies as being neuroatypical.
If you have any questions about the library experience, please contact us.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Welcome customers, clients, patrons, and people who are neurodiverse
There are wonderful examples of how other types of environments adapt the experience to be sensory-friendly:
- Sensory-friendly movies
- Relaxed performances
- Churches and places of worship
- Swimming pools and programs
- Retail stores and shopping hours
- Massage therapists
Finally, we hope the Burnaby Public Library has inspired you to make your event or location sensory-friendly.
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Cristina Freire has been a teen librarian with the Burnaby Public Library for 6 years. Cristina believes we are all on the spectrum and wants to build a world where our differences are appreciated and celebrated.
Denise Kempf has worked with Burnaby Public Library for 33 years. She is passionate about creating inclusive library spaces.