Merton’s libraries have exciting events for SEND children over festive season

Merton Libraries have a host of exciting new events lined up over the festive season and beyond for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), as part of Project Sense- an Arts Council England funded initiative to make Merton’s children’s libraries more accessible.

Current activities over the holiday season include Magical Quest theatre’s exciting performances for SEND schools. There are a range of different activities for SEND children, including Kung Fu, arts and crafts, karate and other sports sessions with occupational therapy play.

The funding for the project was given to Merton Library and Heritage Service in May 2019, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Activities continued online and now the full activity offer is up and running again.

The Service developed its own ideas for installing sensory environments in the children’s libraries, inspired by visitor attractions, including the multi-sensory Gruffalo River Ride Adventure at Chessington World of Adventures.

This led to the seven children’s libraries being transformed into magical themed sensory spaces – such as the Arctic, a forest, the jungle, Space, weather, under the sea and a circus.

The funding helped with the walls being painted and decorated to reflect the different themes and installing new sensory equipment and sounds systems. All library staff and volunteers were trained in supporting SEND children, their carers and parents.

Councillor Brenda Fraser, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Skills said:

“This festive season there are plenty of welcoming and fun activities for children with special educational needs and disabilities at Merton’s libraries. These wonderful interactive sessions are led by experienced trainers, who help children by working with them. This ensures that everyone can take part in all the physical activities and other sessions that children enjoy. We would like more youngsters to come along and join in the fun. Anyone interested in coming, can book now to avoid disappointment.”

One of the magical themed sensory environments for SEND children at Morden Library

With over 5000 SEND books for children to choose from and staff trained in disability and autism awareness, as well as visual and hearing impairment training, the experience for children and their families is welcoming and supportive.

Project Sense provides an annual dedicated free events and activities programme for children with SEND needs and has a dedicated resource library – with the themes of learn, play, grow resource with specialist communication technologies. These include adapted toys, switches and bag books and everything is free to borrow.

Events and activities are booked in advance, as spaces are limited. People can contact the library to book their place or book here. Bookings must be made by 5pm on the Thursday prior to the Saturday morning session. 

For more information about sensory libraries, visit the website here

An Arts Council video showing how Merton’s children’s libraries are helping SEND children, can be viewed here

During this difficult period for all residents, we are continuing to make our libraries as safe as possible during the pandemic and our enhanced cleaning regime remains in place. This includes cleaning all books and equipment when it is returned to the libraries. Customers are reminded to wear face coverings at all times when they visit, keep their distance from each other and sanitise their hands at one of the stations provided at the entrance of each library.