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Create! for Special Populations

Johnson County Library

Problem Statement

The problem was a matter of equity. Developmentally challenged adults in Johnson County had almost no opportunities to participate in developmentally appropriate library programming, compared to what is offered for the general public.


While visiting the Lackman Neighborhood Library with a group of developmentally challenged adults, a social worker commented to the Branch Manager that the preschool children’s programming was developmentally appropriate for her clients. Gloria Liposchak re-purposed and customized the program as “Create! for Special Populations,” offering two sessions per month.

Liposchak frequently uses illustrated preschool books as a launching pad for themes and art style. For instance, she read aloud Diane Mayr’s Run, Turkey, Run before the group made turkeys at Thanksgiving, and they read Caralyn Buehner’s Snowmen at Night before making snowmen out of baby food jars. With or without the story, she always has illustrated books on hand to inspire the participants. To point out different approaches to collage, she compares Lois Ehlert’s crisp art to Eric Carle’s fuzzy and faded art.

Challenges are two-fold: 1) balancing disabilities and adult status in planning the programs, and 2) accommodating the very wide range of abilities among the participants, all within the preschool skill level. Liposchak spends $50/month for supplies and 12 hours /month in planning and presenting two sessions for 40 participants (20 per session).


Since January 2007, Create! has served approximately 420 unique individuals, filling a gap in both library and community programming for this population. Several community organizations regularly bring their groups, including Johnson County Developmental Supports and Shawnee Mission West High School’s Transitions class, plus some families. Age range is high school seniors to senior adults. Because each of the two sessions offered per month is limited to 20 participants, there is a waiting list.

Gail Bennett, Life Enrichment Coordinator for Johnson County Developmental Supports, says about Create!: “I feel they draw from the class a sense of accomplishment which enhances their self esteem. They develop and maintain cognitive skills including problem solving, reasoning, following directions, and making choices. It further develops and maintains creative skills along with hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills. This program allows them meaningful leisure opportunities to be successful adults.”