For children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other disabilities, there is a new space to relax and enjoy any number of programs.

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Ocean County Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari, Ocean County Commissioner Director Gary Quinn along with members of the Ocean County Library Commission and library staff gathered at the Ocean County Library branch in Toms River this week to officially cut a ribbon and watch as the Joseph H. Vicari Sensory Space opened up on the second floor.

“I want to commend the library staff and our library commissioners for their innovative approach to helping our citizens with autism and other disabilities,” Commissioner Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Library system, said in a statement. “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 is grateful for all who took part in making this happen and excited for what this room will provide for so many people.

“This project was really a staff driven project, and I want to thank each and every one of them for the work that was contributed to make this a reality,” Quinn said in a statement. “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.”

The idea for this sensory space came the OCL's Autism Resources Fair and hearing stories of some of the difficulties people with autism were having in public, explained Sara Siegler, Assistant Library Director of the Ocean County Library.

“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,” Siegler said in a statement. “I am so grateful that Commissioner Vicari and Ocean County Library Director Susan Quinn gave us the go ahead to work on creating a space that would help so many families that come through our library.”

Ocean County Commissioners and Ocean County Library officials explain the goal of this 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."

They want to help those on the spectrum develop their senses, have a place to communicate and socialize as well as relieves stress and anxiety.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Here are just some of the innovative features of this new sensory space.

  • 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,” Commissioner Quinn said in a statement. “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.”

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