Ten special needs students from Wallace Elementary School danced among bubbles that floated from a nearby machine, with the pop hit “Happy” playing on a boombox in a third floor room in the Hoboken library.
The event, held this past Monday, was hosted by Senior Assistant Librarian Melissa Medina to celebrate and honor the Wallace students from the school’s kindergarten through fifth grade classes, who helped decorate the library with colored puzzle pieces for Autism Awareness Month in April.
“I thought this was a nice way to celebrate Autism Awareness Month and give back,” said Medina.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People on the spectrum may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately, including autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome.
The CDC estimates 1 in every 68 children in the United States has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).
Medina said she contacted Laurie Reinauer, Wallace’s kindergarten special education applied behavior analysis (ABA) teacher, with the idea to create an Autism Awareness Month bulletin board in the library.
“I coordinated with the other teachers and aides to decorate and create paper puzzle pieces for the bulletin board,” said Reinauer. “This was then organized so the kids could come and see their artwork displayed.”
“He’s my little caterpillar. His transformation is like from a caterpillar to a butterfly with where he started and where he is now.” – Melissa Medina
During the morning, Medina also led sensory story time, the bubble dance party, and an arts and crafts project in which the children decorated paper crowns with stickers, buttons, and faux gems.
Six-year-old Sammy Medina, Melissa Medina’s grandson, was one of the students who participated. Sammy said his favorite part was decorating the crowns as he pointed to his favorite sticker, an orange football.
“He’s my little caterpillar,” Melissa Medina said. “His transformation is like from a caterpillar to a butterfly with where he started and where he is now.”
According to Sammy’s grandmother, the boy was non verbal, and he used to pinch himself or hit himself because he was so frustrated. He also has sensory processing disorder and light sensitivity but now communicates much more effectively.
More to do
The Public Library also offers a Sensory Story Time & Craft and two Lego Social Skills Building groups, one for ages 5 to 8 and one for children aged 3 to 4. The story time is designed for children ages 4 years or older with autism spectrum disorders, sensory integration issues, and other developmental disabilities. The Lego Social Skills Building Groups are also for children on the Autism Spectrum or for children with other special needs challenges to come build with Legos and make new friends.
These programs require participants to reserve a free ticket in advance online at Eventbrite.
The next sensory story time is on May 23 from 4:30 p.m. to 5: 30 p.m. On May 24 at 3:30 p.m., for ages 3 to 4 years old, there is a Lego Social Skills Building group and another at 4:30 p.m. for ages 5 to 8 years old. For more information, call (201) 420-2346
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.