Steph Diorio, Librarian, Archivist & Autistic Self-Advocate to Speak at the 2019 Targeting Autism Forum

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Steph Diorio is the local history librarian/archivist at Hoboken Public Library and has been an autistic self-advocate for ten years since her diagnosis in July 2009.  In addition to her work and advocating through her various archival and library posts, she is also the founder of the Autistic Gaming Initiative, an organization of autistic gamers who do monthly livestreams for autistic-run charities and organizations and to promote further acceptance of autistic people in the gaming community and at large.  Her academic areas of research include the history of comedy (with emphasis on British comedy in the 1960s and anything in the 19th century) and the Long 19th Century (particularly the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War and World War I).  She spends her spare time writing and drawing comics and shares her life with an abnormally large cat name Murphy.

Steph will discuss her advocacy work, including using her position as a public library employee to self-advocate for autistic folks in the community.  She will address why it’s important to include autistic people in the discussions about autism and how best to serve your community.

Registration for the Forum is open through April 15th.  Send an email here.   Include your name, contact information, professional affiliation and a brief statement of what you hope to gain from attending the forum.

Lodging and meals (breakfast and lunch) are provided.  Because registration for the forum will probably exceed the number of hotel rooms available, please consider commuting if travel to Dominican University in River Forest, IL, is convenient.

Illinois State Library/Targeting Autism Hosts Free Webinar on Navigating the Transition Years for Individuals with ASD

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autism webinar 2019
Central Standard Time

The number of students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues to rise.  Many students with ASD are now graduating from high school and entering the workforce and higher education classrooms.  Come learn about resources available to support the transition and explore strategies to increase success.

Presented by Nikki Michalak, Research Coordinator, ICSP (Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support, Illinois State University)Nikki Michalak

Having worked in special education for over 13 years, Nikki strives to facilitate success for special education administrators, staff, and students by providing access to information and tools specifically designed to support students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Her goal is to understand the needs and challenges of educators working with individuals with ASD and be a relevant resource while empowering staff and students to succeed.  Nikki continues to provide professional learning, technical assistance, coaching and consultation to educators, and families of individuals and youth with ASD.  She co-created online professional development as well as undergraduate and graduate courses on ASD.  Ms. Michalak publishes in the field of ASD and informs local service provision through service on multiple leadership boards.

To attend this important and informative webinar, simply complete the registration form .









Chantal Sicile-Kira Speaking at 2019 Targeting Autism Forum

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Chantal Sicile-Kira, internationally known, award-winning author, speaker, autism mom and leader in the field of autism adolescence and transition to adulthood, will be a keynote speaker at the 2019 Targeting Autism Forum.

Chantal has over 25 years of experience as a parent and professional on both sides of the Atlantic. Her books are: Autism Spectrum Disorder; A Full Life with Autism (co-authored with her son Jeremy); What is Autism?; Autism Life Skills; Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum.

In past years, Chantal was appointed by the California Senate Select Committee on Autism & Related Disorders to serve as Co-Chair, South Counties Autism Regional Taskforce, and on the Transitional Services & Supports Taskforce of The California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.  Chantal and her family have been highlighted in Newsweek, on PBS, NPR, MTV, and Fox, Huntington Post and Psychology Today.

Registration to attend the forum is open until April 25th.  If you would like to attend or if you have questions send an email here

Simply include your name, contact information and a brief statement of what you hope to gain from attending the forum.



John Elder Robison Scheduled to Speak at the 2019 Targeting Autism Forum

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john elder robison

Being Different Turning Childhood Disabilities into Adult Gifts

John Elder Robison will describe how the differences of autism and ADHD can disable us as children even as they confer powerful competitive advantages upon us as adults. Though poignant examples from his own life, Robison will show how traits that crippled him as a child actually facilitated some of his greatest accomplishments as an adult. He will share a new way to look at disability, difference, and giftedness, offering a different paradigm for educators, parents, and neurodiverse people. Anyone who is personally affected by autism, Asperger’s, or ADHD will find this talk illuminating and inspiring.

Registration for the Forum is open – now through April 15th.  Send an email here .

Include your name, contact information, professional affiliation and a brief statement of what you hope to gain from attending the forum.

As in past  years, lodging and meals are provided.  (Since rooms are limited in number, however, if you live in close proximity and can easily travel to Dominican University, please consider commuting to the event.)

Disabilities Services & Programs: a short public library survey

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On behalf of the Targeting Autism Initiative, the Illinois State Library is querying public libraries to learn about programs and services that increase engagement among residents with physical and/or developmental disabilities. We would like to share your input with the wider library community in hopes that your experiences will be valuable and instructive to other librarians.

Please complete (or forward to the appropriate person) the short survey at the link provided here.

Thanks in advance for your input.




Internationally Known Autism Advocate and Author Supports Targeting Autism Project

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Michael John Carley
Autism Consultant; Author, “Asperger’s From the Inside-Out,” “Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum,” and the column, “Autism Without Fear.”
Former Executive Director of GRASP (Founder), and Integrate


I am writing to express my appreciation and support for the fabulous work being done by the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State and State Librarian, Jesse White; and the Illinois State Library’s Targeting Autism Project.  For the past four years, the Illinois State Library has made great strides in helping librarians throughout Illinois and the nation to understand and better serve the needs of the large population of individuals with autism.

As an internationally known consultant, author, speaker and autistic self-advocate, I am passionately committed to helping improve the daily lives of people with autism.  My devotion to this cause led me to become the Founder and first Executive Director of GRASP, the largest membership organization in the world comprised of adults on the autism spectrum.  I am also a lifelong library user and I can attest to the cultural value of libraries in improving the quality of life within our communities.  Clearly, the Targeting Autism project through ongoing training, consultation and various programming initiatives is playing an important role in improving the quality of life for patrons and families impacted by autism. In a prior career as a minor-league diplomat, I heard Queen Noor of Jordan accurately describe internet access as the best measuring stick of poverty we had. I agreed, and starting then, libraries, for me, took on new meaning.

I first became aware of the Targeting Autism Project last year, when I was asked to keynote their 2017 National Forum.  I soon learned that Illinois was unique in providing a national platform for engaging community stakeholders with librarians, for the purpose of increasing the role of libraries as resource centers for individuals and families impacted by autism.  The outcomes of the annual forums and other educational initiatives coming out of the Targeting Autism project have been both plentiful and valuable.  Some of these outcomes have been evidenced by the proliferation of environmental changes made within Illinois library facilities to accommodate the sensory needs of patrons on the autism spectrum.  In addition, many libraries have learned how to collaborate with community stakeholders to add resources and programming relevant to this growing population.  Finally, many Illinois libraries are making a concerted effort to offer jobs and internships to autistic applicants.  Overall, Targeting Autism offers a valuable model for developing inclusive libraries throughout and beyond Illinois. And finally, when one considers its size, Targeting Autism’s relative achievements loom large. I’ve worked closely with the Brooklyn, NY library (and especially their heroic Inclusion Manager, Carrie Banks) and your state’s programs…more than “hold up.”

Kudos to the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois State Library for support of the Targeting Autism initiative.  The need to continue this effort, however, is ongoing.  Social stigma and a lack of knowledge about autism remains a pervasive challenge. The dumb-dumbs are still out there (and often vocal). The development and continuation of programs such as Targeting Autism will elevate libraries to play a leadership role in promoting acceptance and inclusion throughout our neurodiverse society.


Chicago Public Library partners with Infiniteach to offer an app for their patrons with autism

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SensoryCPL app launch!

Katie Hench, co-founder, Infiniteach

Thanks to critical initiatives like the Targeting Autism program, Illinois libraries are playing a pivotal role in developing autism inclusive communities. I’m excited to share with you the resources and supports that Chicago Public Library has developed to ensure their space is welcoming and inclusive for all on the autism spectrum.

Chicago Public Library, in partnership with autism app developer Infiniteach, recently launched SensoryCPL, an app that supports individuals with autism and their families when visiting the Thomas Hughes Children’s Library in downtown Chicago.

The app includes text and video social narratives, a customizable visual schedule, an emotions chart, and more. It can be used as a pre-visit planning tool or as a resource to help during a visit. Check it out here:

Liz McChesney, Director of Children’s Services and Family Engagement shared her thoughts on what the app means to CPL:

We are so excited to roll out the Infiniteach app for guests of the Chicago Public Library.  As a public library we strive to reduce barriers, provide a welcoming haven of learning and fun and be a beacon of joy for the people of Chicago.  Infiniteach helps us achieve all those goals and we are excited to welcome families with a child on the spectrum through the easy use of the Infiniteach app. 

Apps like this can be a great tool to welcome, engage, encourage, and support guests with disabilities within your library. But adopting a new technology initiative can feel daunting, whether you are a small system with a limited budget or a large system with many layers to the approval process.

So what was our process for getting the app launched?

The partnership: Chicago Public Library and Infiniteach partnered together to develop SensoryCPL. Team CPL was responsible for sharing assets, and Infiniteach provided content and technical development.

Timeline: We had a 4 month timeline, and throughout that time, we conferenced every other week to discuss progress and questions. We actually finished up development ahead of schedule – a rarity in the app development world!

Pricing: Rather than building this app as a custom app, which can easily cost 6 figures, CPL’s app joined Infiniteach’s autism accessibility platform. The annual licensing fee is $2700 and, to get started, there was a one-time set-up and development fee that varies based on the level of customization.

 The app development process: The first step to developing the app was to assess the physical space and the experience of visiting the library. While talking about the experience, we specifically focused on sensory components, such as bright lights or the maze of getting to the children’s library, as well as behavior expectations, such as using shared materials or what happens if a desired book isn’t available.

After developing the content, we focused on collecting the assets needed to visually share that content in the app. These assets included photos of the space, a floor plan, and CPL branding materials.

Once the content and assets were ready, we began testing. Both teams were able to test the app before it was launched into the app stores. After finding and squashing a few bugs (technical, not live!), the apps were ready to launch.

The launch: The apps officially launched in the App Store and Google Play on August 29. We are currently in what we call the ‘soft launch’ phase, where the app is available to be downloaded for free, but we are selectively sharing it. This allows us to get feedback from key users, check for bugs, and make any updates and improvements before embarking on an official marketing campaign.

We cannot wait to see and hear the impact this app, in conjunction with all of CPL’s accessibility efforts, will have on the families, educators, therapists, and individuals who are part of the developmental disability community.

Please feel free to share any feedback and ideas you have (email Katie at khench@infiniteach.com), and on behalf of the autism community, thank you to Targeting Autism for helping create inclusive communities.