For nearly three years, library service specialist Cathy Fletcher has been leading adult sensory storytime sessions at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Main Library. In that time, Cathy says the groups she leads have become like family.
“Everyone knows each other. They all get along and take care of each other regardless of their ability,” she said of her participants, which usually number about 10 in each session. “I sometimes feel like their teacher and they are all my kids.” Charlotte Mecklenburg Library launched the adult sensory storytime program because Cathy identified a need in the community. She noticed many adults with special needs were aging out of available activities, leaving them vulnerable with idle time.
“We were running into problems because patrons with special needs were aging out of sensory programs. They needed somewhere to go and something to do.” The storytime programs Cathy leads help promote healthy living while exploring the arts, improving functional skills and fostering community involvement.
Cathy is passionate about her time and cares for her groups. “These people just want to be a part of something - to be a part of life. They all have their own library cards and are part of the Library.”
Cathy also partnered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to deliver an adapted safety presentation for the individuals with disabilities who come to the Library. “Part of our responsibility is to create an understanding with the community about our customers with disabilities or special needs. The Library has been very supportive of that.”
Cathy’s hard work providing adaptable storytimes for groups of adults with special needs has not gone unnoticed outside the Library. In May 2018, Cathy received recognition from The Exceptional Foundation of Charlotte, a local organization that provides facilities and programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to meet regularly and experience a broad range of social and recreational activities.
During The Exceptional Foundation of Charlotte’s annual Dinnertainment event, Cathy was surprised to receive the award. “They had already called out two other people and then I heard my name and had to stand up. It was a great affair. I was tickled,” she said. The group recognized Cathy for her dedication to adults with special needs, and her impact on the community reaches beyond the organization.
Originally from Michigan, Cathy is a long-time resident of Charlotte. As she reflects on her journey with the Library, she believes this work is her passion. “I started working with special needs customers because I had a cousin who was treated differently due to a developmental delay. These participants are human beings, after all. I like to provide a comfortable space where they can relax. They have likes and dislikes, feelings, passions, and talents just like anyone,” Cathy said. “I’m lucky to have found my passion in life - even late.”
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is invested in offering programs that support and uplift our community. The relationships Cathy has with her storytime groups are proof the Library is working to create a safe environment to foster potential in a more engaged and well-informed atmosphere. Her storytimes are open to anyone in need of a friendly smile and a song. Check the calendar at Main Library for more information.