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?


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