Libraries in Collaboration with Autism Experts and Advocates: Turning Our Focus to Next Steps

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The Targeting Autism Project is an initiative aimed at helping libraries work with various community stakeholders to help improve the quality of lives for residents affected by autism.  As librarians, we need to learn about our diverse  populations in order to provide appropriate library programming and services.  Because autism is often characterized by invisible disabilities, librarians are dependent on knowledge gained from experts and advocates.  Libraries cannot succeed at being inclusive of the ASD population without additional training and education.

Libraries need to partner with a wide variety of community groups, social service providers, educators, clinicians, and autism advocates to become skilled as community hubs to local resources, and ultimately, to play an important role  in improving the quality of so many lives.

So where do we begin?  Our first step is to learn about our community.

At the September Forum, we are asking participants to share what they’ve learned about their ASD and community services and needs.  These questions provide a starting point:

1.    Who are the stakeholders?

2.       What services are provided in my community?

3.       What types of support is needed?

4.       What are the demographics of the ASD population?

5.       What do the libraries need to do to be a conduit to local resources?

6.       What types of training opportunities are available for staff?

7.       What can I do to make my libraries more welcoming to the ASD community?


New Targeting Autism Facebook Page!

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A new facebook page has been created to provide an online forum to foster discussion and support for libraries to become more actively inclusive of the large patron population of people touched by autism. The facebook page is titled:  Targeting Autism: Helping Libraries Serve Communities Touched by Autism. Please “Like,” post and share widely!

The Future of The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP), a Key Partner in the Targeting Autism Initiative, is Threatened

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Hundreds of families in the Springfield area and thousands across the state face the possibility of abruptly losing services for their autistic children after an immediate $1 million budget cut by Gov. Bruce Rauner.  The complete story is available here.

March Forum Concludes – Russ Bonanno Thanks Group for Participating in the First Forum of its Kind in the Country!!

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Russ Bonanno (TAP) goes over the group’s marching orders to prepare for the September forum.  Suzanne Schriar and State Library Director, Anne Craig make a few final remarks.

March Forum – Concluding Remarks

A Panel of Service Providers Discuss the Importance of Needs-Based Collaborations and Statewide Partners — March Forum, Day 2

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Panel participants:

Kristin Gharst, Family Resource Coordinator, TAP Program at CTF Illinios

Jan Pearcy, Associate Director, Eastern Illinois Area of Special Education

Misty Baker, Director, Eastern Illinois University Child Care Resource & Referral

Debbie Einhorn, Director, Family Matters Parent Training & Information Center

This panel served as a successful model of collaboration.   They talked about the economic necessity of forming collaborations, finding out the needs of families, and finding people that are willing to work with you.  The economic need for forming partnerships to deliver support services for the ASD community cannot be overstated.  As Debbie Einhorn pointed out, “…unfortunately, we live in a state (IL) that doesn’t put a high priority on disability services… ranking second to last in the nation on dollars spent on disability services….”

Panel on Needs-Based Partnerships to Support Individuals with ASD


Jim Runyon Says You Must Have “Fire In Your Gut” to Keep the Momentum Going!! — Day 2, March Forum

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Jim Runyon, Easter Seals,  Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives & Governmental Affairs addresses the following questions:

  • Why is a community needs assessment crucial?
  • How do you identify your service gaps?
  • Who are your key stakeholders?
  • What age group and geographic region are you trying to engage?
  • How do you identify collaborators?
  • How do  you engage people where they are and keep them engaged?

Jim also stresses that having “fire in your gut” is key to a sustainable initiative. Jim Runyon, Easter Seals, Speaking on Community Needs Assessments (3 parts) Jim Runyon – Targeting Autism March Forum, Day 2, Part One Jim Runyon – Targeting Autism March Forum, Day 2, Part Two Jim Runyon – Targeting Autism March Forum, Day 2, Part Three

Mark Nolen of WayMark Systems discusses the survey comments with the group – March Forum, Day 2

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Mark Nolen leads the morning forum discussion by reviewing the survey comments and looks at challenges and opportunities for collaboration.  Mark tells the group, “…Don’t disregard negative responses, even if they are few in number… Know about them, plan for them and move forward wisely…”

Mark Nolen, WayMark Systems – Survey comments and discussion