Illinois State Library is in the running for a 2016 IMLS autism education grant!!

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From IMLS:

“…It gives me great pleasure to notify you that the proposal submitted by Illinois State Library, “Targeting Autism: A Comprehensive Training and Education Program for Librarians,” has been selected to advance to the second phase of review for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian (LB21) Program. As you know, LB21 supports professional development, graduate education and continuing education to help libraries and archives develop the human capital capacity they need to meet the changing learning and information needs of the American public….”

The second phase of this process is a full proposal to be submitted January 15, 2016.

There will be a project proposal update as part of the next Targeting Autism Forum on March 10-11, 2016.



Co-Founders of SNAILS and Targeting Autism Participants Present Webinar as Part of ADA 25 Chicago

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Webinar on Thursday, December 10, 2015 (9:30 AM – 11:00 AM)

Join two leaders in the field to learn about models of service, programming and technologies that create a welcoming library environment for young patrons with disabilities. Learn about dynamic programs being offered at public libraries around the Chicagoland area that can be replicated at your library. Presenters: Renee Grassi, Youth Department Director, Glen Ellyn Public Library, and Holly Jin, Community Engagement Supervisor, Skokie Public Library. Holly and Renee are the co-founders of the Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services (SNAILS)  networking group and have presented webinars and programs on the topic of inclusive libraries at various state and national conferences. RAILS is proud to recognize the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with this program.

Autism Course Developed by Project PALS is Available on WebJunction!

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Thanks to the leadership and efforts of Nancy Everhart, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Florida State University, a series of four independent, self-paced instructional modules intended for librarians and library staff to learn how to better serve their users on the autism spectrum is now available, nationwide, on OCLC’s WebJunction.

Dr. Everhart, (Targeting Autism board member and participant), is co-director of a two year IMLS funded program, Panhandle Autism Library Services (PALS) to improve information services for rural patrons who have an ASD.  PALS is funded by a Laura Bush Professional Development grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

As described on the PALS website, the course Serving Library Users on the Autism Spectrum, now available on WebJunction, includes the following modules:

Module One: About Autism in the Library

      By the end of this module, you will be able to:

      • Identify at least five observable characteristics that individuals with ASD might exhibit in a library setting.
      • Define autism and three recent facts in the identification and prevalence of the disorder.
      • Recommend three current resources that would support individuals with autism and their families in being successful patrons in the library.
      • Describe at least 3 situations in which the library can increase community involvement for individuals with ASD.

Module Two: Arranging the Library Environment

      By the end of this module, you will be able to:

      • Make recommendations for potential improvements to areas or activities in the library to better meet the needs of individuals with ASD.
      • Construct visual supports to encourage communication and independence in the library of ASD patrons.
      • Develop environmental alternatives to increase participation of individuals with ASD.

Module Three: Communicating with Individuals with Autism

      By the end of this module, you will be able to:

      • Develop opportunities for social interaction and communication between staff and patrons with ASD in the library.
      • List strategies to promote communication and prevent or decrease disruptive or challenging behaviors of individuals with ASD.
      • Identify how to use augmentative/alternative communication strategies to support independence and participation in the library for patrons with ASD.

Module Four: Interacting with Technology

    By the end of this module, you will be able to:

    • Describe situations in which the library can provide services to parents or caregivers related to technology.
    • List strategies that the library can use to enhance the experience and independent utilization of technology and social media for individuals with ASD.
    • Describe situations in which the library can facilitate appropriate technology training for individuals with ASD.

Consultant, Advocate andTargeting Autism participant, Adria Nassim, Shares Tips for Making Libraries Autism Friendly for Children

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Children in general have an inclination to want to explore their environments but many children with autism struggle with sensory issues which can make integration into an environment difficult.

Some common issues experienced by children with autism:

    • Difficulty with physical touch
    • Dislike of loud noises, may cry, scream
    • Dislike of crowds, busy areas
    • Trouble with change in schedule, transition from one activity to the next
    • Throws temper tantrums beyond expected age
    • May play with toys inappropriately (e.g.,  spin wheels of car)
    • May rock, hum, spin in circles, flap hands when frustrated or overstimulated
    • Difficulty with social interaction
    • Poor eye contact

Consider incorporating several different modalities throughout the children’s department to allow for a more pleasant experience.  Here are some ideas:

    • Water toys and a water table.  These are available in a variety of sizes.   Be sure that the table is tall and wide enough to accommodate children in wheelchairs and orthopedic equipment (e.g., leg braces, walkers).
    • Infants/Toddlers Touch’n Feel Books
    • Story Hour Area: Shag Rug or individual Mats
    • Arts and Crafts: Finger Paint
    • Use of cereal other food items as art
    • Light up pens with marker board
    • Picture and Word Guides Illustrating how to play with toys in library due to difficulty with parallel play
    • Timers on technology and gaming equipment
    • Show “Autism Friendly Films
    • “Provide snacks with at least one gluten free option. Many individuals with ASD are on gluten free diets.

Involving the parents and other caregivers is a important strategy and best practice.  Here are some ideas:

    • Autism email list: Allow parents, caregivers to provide email or phone contact if desired to alert of upcoming changes at library i.e. fire drill, construction, play area closed, etc. This will help to reduce anxiety resulting from unexpected change in routine for the child.
    • Allow for quiet space families can go if child needs to regroup
    • Be aware that some children may struggle with verbal communication and may not readily respond to questions, say thank you, etc.
    • It is very helpful if staff can get to know the families of patrons with disabilities. If they are not verbal, or have limited verbal ability, how best can staff communicate with your child? Alternative Communication Device? ASL? Picture Icons? etc.
    • Find out what the child likes to do?   What are their favorite characters, games or toys?
    • Does the child have tendencies toward dangerous behaviors such as wandering, head banging, and how should staff best assist should such thing occur
    • Consider developing a “Siblings of Autism” hangout night and support group.
    • Consider developing a support group just for parents

Finding community partners is an essential best practice:

    • Partner with local authorities to conduct training on autism recovery.
    • Many individuals with autism are also diagnosed with other conditions such as seizure disorder. Partner with local hospital or pediatric practice to provide a staff training on first aid for seizure disorder.
    • Consider investing in trainings on sign language and various communication methods. There will likely come a time when the individual with autism is separated from his caregiver, and in such case, staff should be ready to assist.

A diverse staff fosters an inclusive library:

  • Be aware that autism and other disabilities can affect children of all ethnic backgrounds. Seek employees who have backgrounds in world languages, this includes sign language and those who also may have experience with people with various disabilities.   Sample interview questions:
    • Do you have experience with any world languages including American Sign Language? (ASL) If yes, please state level of proficiency.
    •  Have you had prior experience serving people with disabilities? If yes in what context?

Don’t forget about bathroom issues!

  • Also be mindful that many children with autism and other disabilities may have difficulty with potty training. This may remain an issue for quite some time.  Another way to assist families of patrons with disabilities is to consider stocking restrooms with diapers and Pull Ups of various sizes and designs appropriate to either gender   (e.g., Good Nites, Depends, as well as traditional Pull Ups and diapers). THIS SHOULD APPLY TO ALL RESTROOMS.

Sometimes, there is just no substitute for a dog!

  • Consider contacting the local humane society and asking about the possibility of a Read to a Dog program. Many children with autism will bond/socialize more readily with animals than people. This can also be a great way to further social skills, speech and language development by allowing the child to pet, read to dog or listen as story is read and could be a good trial run for parents looking into getting a service dog or pet for the child.

A Great Opportunity for No Charge Onsite Training and Consultation Services — BOOK NOW!!

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Schedule a no charge site visit with former TAP director, Russ Bonanno for the following:

  • Introductory level, on-site training sessions in the understanding of autism;
  • Identify community stakeholders, resources and provide assistance in developing collaborations
  • Consulting/providing technical assistance in developing needs assessments related to autism; and
  • Consulting/providing technical assistance in developing programs or evaluating modifications to better meet the needs of individuals with autism and their families.