New dates set for Targeting Autism Forum — March 10-11, 2016

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The new dates for the second Targeting Autism Forum has officially been set for Thursday, March 10 through Friday, March 11, 2016.  The lack of a state budget remains challenging for Illinois, as we continue to wait for a resolution.  We appreciate your understanding and hope that you take advantage of the additional time to collaborate with autism services providers and various community stakeholders.   Direct your attention to the outside community and refer to these questions as a starting point:

  1.  Who are the autism stakeholders in my community?
  2.  What services are provided for individuals and family members impacted by autism?
  3.  What is the demographic makeup of  those residents with autism in my community?
  4.  How can I help my community library to become a conduit to local support services and resources?
  5.  How extensive are the autism education/training needs of librarians and public services staff?
  6.  What does my library currently do to support the patron population impacted by autism?  Is it enough?
  7.  What can I do to ensure that my library is welcoming to residents with autism?

Finally, please share your stories, both positive and negative, using the ‘Contact’ section of this blog.  All stories pertaining to patrons/families impacted by autism and their library experiences are important to the continuation of the Targeting Autism initiative.  Please show  your support by staying connected and keeping the momentum up!

I look forward to seeing you in Springfield, IL, for the March forum!


Libraries and Autism: Why It Matters!

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On Thursday, September 24, 2015, 1:30-3:00pm (CST) Russ Bonanno, Director, The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP) and I will present a webinar, titled, Libraries and Autism: Why It Matters!  Registration information is available on the L2 calendar of events.

Description:  Libraries play a number of roles within their communities, which leaves them uniquely positioned to provide resources and services that can greatly benefit community members with autism spectrum disorder and their friends and families. This webinar will introduce the Targeting Autism project spearheaded by the Illinois State Library and funded by a grant from IMLS. Beginning with a brief overview of autism and how it may impact libraries and library staff, the presenters will discuss the rationale behind this project, future project plans, and how libraries can benefit from their involvement in this project.

This webinar is hosted by the RAILS Library System and is included as part of ADA 25 Chicago series of webinars developed to commemorate this year’s 25th anniversary of ADA.


Targeting Autism September Forum Postponed Until March, 2016

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August has arrived and there is still no state budget in Illinois.  Although the Targeting Autism Project is funded by IMLS, the Illinois State Library has no authority to spend funds until an Illinois budget is approved.

Please understand that the Illinois State Library remains strongly committed to the Targeting Autism Project and to all initiatives that assist libraries in becoming more welcoming to the ASD community.  In addition, the State Library has been granted a project extension from IMLS, which enables us to postpone the Targeting Autism Forum until March, 2016.   The exact dates for the two-day forum will be announced once we can coordinate and confirm some of the meeting details.

Thank you for your patience and support during these challenging times.

Illinois State Budget Delay Could Postpone Targeting Autism Forum — Stay Tuned!

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The upcoming Targeting Autism forum, September 3-4, may need to be rescheduled due to the delay in approving the fiscal 2016 Illinois state budget.  Essentially, the Illinois State Library will not have the authority to make expenditures for fiscal year 2016 until a state budget is approved. 

If no budget is in place by August 1st, the forum will be rescheduled.  We are committed to the success of this program; and should we need to reschedule the forum, every attempt will be made to accommodate the schedule needs of our participants. 

In the meantime, I will keep you updated on any developments that impact the forum.  Thank you for your support and patience.



New Grant Program Sponsored by “Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected”

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The “Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More” grant is sponsored by Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.
Meg KolayaThis grant honors the groundbreaking work of Libraries and Autism co-founder Meg Kolaya for her contributions in promoting inclusion, connecting libraries and the autism community, and bringing awareness of the needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families to the library community.

Grant Description
Each year, a total of $5,000.00 will be awarded. Depending on the applications received, one grant for the full amount or multiple grants for smaller amounts totalling $5,000.00 may be awarded.

Any type of library can apply and the proposed program or service can fund projects and services for any age group. Applicants may propose to initiate a new, creative program or service, bring an already-existing, successful program or service to their library for the first time, or enhance a program or service they already offer. All programs or services proposed must benefit people with autism or their families, directly or indirectly. Funds may be used to hire a trainer to present a workshop, to buy program materials, to pay for staff, etc.

Click Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More to find additional details and a link to the application form.

This grant is funded by Barbara Klipper, librarian and author of Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ALA Editions, 2014) and The Secret Rules of Social Networking (AAPC Publishing, 2015), a one-of-a-kind resource for teens and young adults with ASD or other social skills deficits that outlines the unstated rules that guide relationships in the real world and online as well.

Targeting Autism Forum Leads to a New Grant Offering

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The following message is from Barbara Klipper, author of Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ALA, 2014.  Barbara is an independent library disabilities consultant and trainer.  She is also a presenter at the Targeting Autism forums.

From Barbara:I am fortunate, and grateful to have sufficient financial resources that my husband and I are able to make charitable contributions.  When I’ve thought about what I want to support, the idea of up-close-and-personal giving has always appealed to me more than writing a check to an organization.  Having worked at some serious nonprofits before I became a librarian (CARE, Save the Children, and United Way), I know that many of these organizations do great work, but I still prefer the idea of having a little more say about what my money funds.  With that in mind, I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a small foundation, but I never got around to acting on that thought.

Then I participated in the Targeting Autism Forum in Springfield, Illinois in March 2015, and my thoughts about charitable giving began to crystalize into an idea.  It was during a breakout session, when attendees met in groups based on geographic proximity.  I was assisting the organizers, moving from group to group and facilitating discussions about what local libraries could do to bring stakeholders together and begin to serve people with ASD.  As I circulated I heard the same refrain from several participants.  It went something like this: “I’d love to do something, but my library is so small (underfunded, understaffed) that we just don’t have the resources to take this on.”  How true I realized, especially for libraries in rural or inner city communities.

I thought about that problem after I returned home, and it led me to a possible solution, one that wouldn’t serve all of the libraries that wanted to do something but couldn’t, but that would help a few directly and maybe inspire others to find ways to begin to program for and serve this population.  That solution was the development of a new grant that I would fund. I brought my idea to several other attendees of the forum, and together we formed a committee to collectively design the grant and write the application form and support materials.  Named “Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More,” the grant honors Meg Kolaya, a pioneer in the area of library service to people with autism and co-founder of Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected. I committed to providing up to $5000 a year for five years for this purpose.  

The “Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More” grants are sponsored by Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected. Applications will be available on that website by September (until the grant deadline on December 1), and a link will be available on this site.  I hope knowledge of the this new funding source spurs librarians and community stakeholders to get creative, think seriously about what they could do if they had the money, and apply for the grants.”

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?