'Years of dreaming': New collection of therapeutic tools debuts at Arlington Heights library

  • Michael Dancz and 5-year-old daughter Erica play with one of the many toys available in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's new Accessibility Support Collection, which launched Tuesday night.

    Michael Dancz and 5-year-old daughter Erica play with one of the many toys available in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's new Accessibility Support Collection, which launched Tuesday night. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

  • Maria Papanastassiou, the youth services assistant manager at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, shows one of the interactive books available in the library's new Accessibility Support Collection.

    Maria Papanastassiou, the youth services assistant manager at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, shows one of the interactive books available in the library's new Accessibility Support Collection. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/27/2021 5:10 AM

While 5-year-old Erica Dancz was playing with some of the therapeutic toys and tools now available in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's Kids' World section, her dad, Michael, was browsing the new collection of print materials.

He found "The Zones of Regulation: A Curriculum Designed to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control."

 

"Her doctor recommended she uses this," Michael Dancz said of the curriculum used by schools, clinics and parents. "I didn't even expect it to be here. It's great."

That's the idea behind the library's new Accessibility Support Collection, which formally launched Tuesday night: Give families and therapists the opportunity to try out some of the 350 specialized items before purchasing them.

Often, such therapeutic tools can be expensive.

The new Arlington Heights collection -- rare among libraries locally, if not nationally -- includes toys designed to support motor, social, cognitive, visual and auditory skill development; therapeutic and adaptive technology tools; and interactive books for children in different developmental stages.

Maria Papanastassiou, the library's youth services assistant manager, pursued grant funding to try to build the collection after seeing a presentation five years ago about a similar collection at the Bloomfield Township Public Library in Michigan.

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While several attempts at getting grants were unsuccessful, Papanastassiou had forged a partnership with CITY of Support, a nonprofit that provides assistance to families with children in therapy.

Since 2015, the organization that started as a Facebook group has sponsored programs at the library, including developmental play groups and parent coffee groups.

In 2019, the group -- now officially a nonprofit -- decided to award the library $10,000 to help establish the collection.

After all the items were researched, selected and purchased, Tuesday night marked the official debut.

"This is many years of dreaming and planning and collaborating," said Beth Deiter, a pediatric speech pathologist who serves as CITY of Support's board chair. "(The collection) is not only providing families with tangible resources to explore with and for their child in therapy. It is validating the importance of such access in our community."

Items in the collection are available for checkout by Arlington Heights library cardholders and those with reciprocal borrowing privileges.

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