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July 25, 2019, Greenfield (MA) Recorder: Sunderland to expand autism friendly programs Soon, Sunderland library patrons who are on the autism spectrum will be able to check out sensory toys. Through a recently awarded $7,500 federal grant — known as the Library Services and Technology Act grant — Sunderland’s public library is aiming to make be a more welcoming place for children with Autism. The money, administered through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, will be used to fund Sunderland Public Library’s project entitled “Access for All: Autism is Welcome Here.” “We are proud to deliver grant funding to libraries for projects that fill unique needs of libraries across Massachusetts,” said Rob Favini, head of library advisory and development at the MBLC. “Libraries continue to be a vital resource to the communities they serve. Programs funded through LSTA grants illustrate the diverse range of topics and audiences served by Massachusetts libraries.” To that end, “We will be working closely with consultants to discover ways we can make our facilities and services more comfortable for people on the autism spectrum, and library staff members will attend training sessions on how to best serve people on the autism spectrum,” said Katherine Hand, the School Street library’s director. Additionally, Hand says the library intends to develop a sensory toy collection that patrons will be able to borrow. Sensory toys are toys that are designed to stimulate the senses, engaging children both cognitively and physically, a statement about the grant notes. Children on autism spectrum often crave certain sensory inputs, and sensory toys can help improve a child’s focus or provide a calming experience. … The library already has plans to host autism-friendly playgroups, and programs for teens on the autism spectrum to help them prepare for college and/or the workforce. The grant will begin in October of this year and will run through September 2020. …

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