“Autism Welcome Here” Grant Makes Huge Impact on Teen & Tween Patrons of the Wisner Public Library

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The Albert Wisner Public Library received a 2017 Autism Welcome Here grant to provide a series of workshops designed to support the development of social skills for teens and tweens with ASD.  In this series, participants had the opportunity to learn about the library, form a book group, enhance their social media etiquette, express themselves through art projects, play board games, take part in a group dance, and more.  The program’s three primary goals were to (1) introduce and encourage social skills that teens and tweens can apply in the library and beyond; (2) provide those on the spectrum and their families a safe and familiar place in the community; and (3) demonstrate respect for neurodiversity and inclusion.  A description of their highly successful Game Night, implemented in the  first half of their grant project is available here.

The final half of their project included many fun and creative activities.  Below are some of the highlights.

DANCE (2 sessions):  The first session, modern dance and movement, was taught by a specialist in modern, creative and improvisational dance.  The instructor held up cards to instruct dancers to gallop, tiptoe, shake, ice skate, as well as to create their own moves to music.  Participants also did a mirror exercise with a partner.

The second dance session, taught by a local educator, was to introduce and practice popular party dances often seen at weddings and school dances. Dances included the Cupid Shuffle, the Charlie Brown, the Wobble, the Electric Slide, and the Hora. The participants also learned the rules of etiquette for slow dancing, such as how to ask someone to dance, how to accept or decline an invitation to dance, and where to properly place one’s hands while slow dancing with another person.

wisner dance 2

ART APPRECIATION (2 sessions):  The first session was an art appreciation presentation followed by the opportunity to create an original art piece. Taught by an experienced art teacher, the session began with a PowerPoint presentation of 10 well-known works of art, the title and the artist’s name. The instructor talked briefly about one aspect of the painting and its relation to emotions. The instructor engaged the participants by asking open ended questions about how they felt about a painting and why. It was interesting to see that the participants often spoke precisely about a color or a detail in the painting. Artwork presented included Frieda Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, and Georgia O’Keeffe. After the survey of art, students were free to use a wide variety of materials to create artwork of their own. Pencils, glue, fabric, found objects of different textures, and paint were all used to create original works.

The second session was billed as “Sip and Paint.” It featured “Sunflowers” by Vincent Van Gogh. Each participant received a copy of the work, a canvas with the work outlined on it, and the specific colors that matched the original. The instructor spoke about the proper way to hold the brush and brushstrokes. The participants filled in the outline of the work while copying the original. If they chose afterwards, they could then create their own artwork, while chatting with others and taking breaks for refreshments.

MOVIE & KARAOKE:  Participants sat on the floor, on chairs or beanbag chairs, or walked around and moved during the animated movie Sing.  Sometimes the audience couldn’t resist joining in with the singing and dancing in the movie. This was followed by karaoke. Participants chose classic rock and rap songs to sing along to for their audience.

GIFT MAKING:  This activity was planned to coincide with Mother’s Day and was billed as making gifts for mothers or other important people in their life. Lead by a local artist, the students made an array of gifts. They started by painting canvas and letting them dry, and returning to them later to add designs, drawings or collage. There was a huge variety of beads available for stringing bracelets and the instructor taught the participants how measure their string, and how to add a clasp and prevent beads from falling off by using a crimp bead and pliers. The participants also had the option of making a mobile from a variety of materials. Tissue paper, ribbon and tape were available for wrapping the gifts at the end.

The grant project culminated with PARTY PLANNING session & a subsequent PARTYThe planning session was led by a special education teacher. The “party planners”met and decided on a theme for the party that would end the library series (and coincided with the end of the academic year). After some discussion, they decided on a summer-party theme (“Fun in the Sun”), as well as activities, food, games, and music playlist. The committee made summer-themed decorations such as glass bowls with sand and colorful rocks, and paper umbrellas in Styrofoam swim noodles. All the party ideas were written on an easel and the participants added to it freely. Song suggestions were added to a separate list, and one of the participants made a Spotify playlist for the party.

The party was held the following week. The participants played musical chairs, had a relay race and played hot beach ball. Card games were available for anyone who needed a quiet space and activity. The refreshments selected were chips, soda, pizza, juice, water, and Italian ices. The participants did party dances from the dance session, and there was a decorated doorway and props for taking photos. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful library grant project.

Due to the success of Wisner Library’s Autism Welcome Here grant project, the library has decided to commit a portion of its budget towards continuing this program during the next fiscal year. A committee has already met and discuss and plan activities for the future.

Applications for the 2019 Autism Welcome Here grants will be accepted beginning September 1, 2018.  For more information about the Autism Welcome Here Grant Program, click here.


Behind the Scenes at the Targeting Autism Forum: Kerry Magro Interviews Gyasi Burks-Abbott

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Resources and Training Offered by Autism Training and Technical Assistance (ATTA) and Autism Speaks

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2018 forum Colleen Shinn and Nikki Michalak

Colleen Shinn, Autism Speaks                                                Nikki Machalak, ATTA   


The Autism Training and Technical Assistance project (ATTA) seeks to create resources and training that can be used by students with ASD, their family members, secondary and postsecondary educators and staff, employers, and members of the community, to better understand the transition process, the unique barriers faced by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and to assist them in working towards or providing equitable access in the workplace/postsecondary setting.  Nikki Michalak, Research Coordinator, ATTA, shared information about the Project at the Targeting Autism forum.

Colleen Shinn, Manager, Community Outreach, Autism Speaks, Midwest and South Central Regions on activities and resources available from Autism Speaks, including their extensive Spectrum Careers Portal.  Colleen also shared how she is collaborating with Illinois libraries to increase awareness of the wide range of resources that are freely available to support individuals with autism.

The presentation at the 2018 Targeting Autism Forum can be viewed here.


2018 Targeting Autism Annual Forum Participants

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Targeting autism forum participant 2018
Group picture:  May, 17th, 2018, on the steps of the West entrance of the Illinois State Library

Panel Discussion on Helping Make Libraries Inclusive

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Librarians on the autism spectrum share their experience of being autistic and working in a library.  You can view the full panel discussion in a two part interview:

Part I; Part II

2018 forum librarians on the spectrum
From left to right: Charlie Remy – Academic Librarian, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga; Gyasi Burks-Abbott – a librarian and self-advocate and Advisor, Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts and a board member, Autism Housing Pathways; Steph Diorio – Archivist, Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey; Erin Miller – Library Aide, Cudahy Family Library, Cudahy, WI











Deadline to Register for Targeting Autism Forum has been Moved Back One Week

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Due to popular demand to attend the 2018 Targeting Autism forum, we are moving back our registration deadline one week.

If you would like to attend the Targeting Autism Forum but have not yet registered, the new deadline is Friday, April 20, 2018.april-20-2018

Registration is Open for the 2018 Targeting Autism Forum!!

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2018 Targeting Autism Forum at the Illinois State Library, May 17-18th

The 2018 Targeting Autism Forum will be held on May 17-18, 2018 in the atrium of the Illinois State Library, Springfield, IL,.  The full agenda is available here.  To register, simply send an email to Suzanne Schriar with a subject line that reads Registration for the forum.  Please include your name, job title, name of your library or other professional affiliation and a brief statement about your interest in the topic of autism and libraries.  As in previous years, there is no registration fee to attend.  Lodging for May 16-17 will be provided at no additional charge at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre.  Breakfast and lunch on May 17-18 will be provided.  Registrations will be accepted now through Friday, April 27th.