SPRINGFIELD, Mo. We may have thought we came to interview him, but three-and-a-half-year-old Noah Heaton quickly turned things around with the insatiable curiosity only a little one can have, grabbing a microphone to examine it, sing songs, and ask questions.
"Noah was diagnosed with Autism level two when he was about two-and-a-half," said Stacy Heaton.
Like any parent, Heaton wants her son to have the same opportunities to learn and grow as anyone else, but coming to public places, like the library, can present a challenge.
"His senses are overactive, so lights are brighter, sounds are louder, touches feel differently to him," Heaton said.
The Heatons' experience is one shared by families all around the Ozarks. Going to the grocery store, the movies, or even picking out a book the library are experiences most of us take for granted. However, all of those things can be a lot more challenging for parents of children with special needs.
"Like the fluorescent lights above us buzz constantly. There's footsteps as people come up and down this hall," said Katie Hopkins of the Springfield-Greene County Library.
Hopkins is a library employee who also has a child who faces those challenges meaning she was able to quickly access the environment at the Library Center on South Campbell in Springfield.
From the constant beeps to the whir of machines, she knew which factors may impact a child with sensory overload. Hopkins was able to come up with a way to make the library friendlier for every family.
"We want everybody to feel welcome at the library," Hopkins said.
That means designating new special tours and workshop times designed for those with special needs, creating even more exploration opportunities for learners like Noah.
"It means the world to us, because every parent wants their child to have those kind of experiences," Heaton said.
The first night designed for parents of children with special needs is Friday, September 15, at 7 p.m. You do have to register and can visit the Springfield-Greene County Library homepage or call 417-616-0554 for more information.
Here's a link to the information about the program:
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