CALEXICO — The regular Friday closing hours saw many of the Calexico Camarena Memorial Library’s employees out the door and onto their weekend. However, for acting city librarian Lizeth Legaspi and county autism spectrum coordinator Rosie Ramos, a special event was about to begin.
“Our ‘On the Spectrum
Story Hour’ isn’t just for children on the spectrum,” said Ramos. “We actually
like the idea of the children meeting each other and getting to know one
another, without a barrier or stigma.”
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental
disorder that affects communication and behavior, according to the National
Institute of Mental Health.
The event saw a good
turnout on Feb. 21 and was the fourth such local gathering to date. The program
has already held story hours in Imperial, Heber, and Brawley, with events scheduled
in El Centro on Feb. 22 and Calipatria on Feb. 29.
“That’s just for this
month,” interjected Legaspi on the dates. “We’re making this a monthly program
for at least six more months to come, and the dates for upcoming events will be
announced through Facebook and other social media.”
The hour started off when
Ramos introduced herself to the children and the parents. Shortly after, she
read a story to the kids and followed it up by asking them about their favorite
parts and experiences within the story’s subject matter.
“Despite being open to
everyone, we’re obviously taking into consideration the needs of those on the
spectrum,” said Ramos. “We’ve set up the schedule in a non-restrictive way.”
She added, “After the
initial story I read, which only takes a few minutes, we open the floor to
them. We’ve set up activities throughout the library such as crafts, physical
activities, and toys which, of course, are all sensory-friendly.”
The focus is on the
parents as much as the children, Legaspi explained.
“I think that one of the
most important parts of this program is the social aspect,” she said. “We
really want to provide parents with an avenue in which they can count on their
kids meeting new friends, and socialize, in an environment that’s friendly to
Shyness wasn’t prevalent
at this particular story hour, as right after the initial story the kids made
fast friends with each other. This saw groups of energetic participants rushing
off to the various stations that had been set up by staff around the library
“The response for the
program has been very welcome,” said Legaspi. “We had a similar event last year,
‘Autism Awareness Family night’ and we decided to send out flyers to all those
who participated in that as well.”
The event turn outs are
also demonstrating the need to promote them, Legaspi added.
“We received a warm
response on social media, as we got a good amount of exposure and interaction.
We will continue to reach out to the community, such as the local public
schools, and other places where kids on the spectrum may need attention to
their needs,” she said.