Mokena Public Library Serves as a Model of Community Inclusion

Posted on Updated on


For over fifty years, the Mokena Community Public Library has provided inclusive programming for their residents. They have adapted to the changing needs of their diverse community while remaining a central informational and social hub for the village.

Cathy Hoffman and Kathy Ruggio, library staff members, attended the 2017 Targeting Autism forum in Springfield to explore how the library might address the needs of patrons and families impacted by autism. They left the forum with great ideas about adapting services in her library. Wasting no time, they pitched the ideas to the board of directors.  With the green light from the board and Library Director, Cathy Palmer, they embarked on an exciting mission to make Mokena Public Library truly inclusive.  Seeking advice, they contacted Mary Pelich, Autism Consultant and Trainer with the Targeting Autism Project, for a professional consultation.

Mary toured the Mokena Public Library on July 27, to assess their space and discuss ways to make their library more welcoming for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. During the consultation, all explored the possibility of converting several spaces into “calming environments” by making just a few inexpensive adjustments.  Lighting was considered as well as noise levels, neighboring library departments, furniture options, privacy and signage for the space.  They also looked at the children’s story/activity room, a large, dedicated area full of tables and chairs with built-in work spaces.  For children with sensory sensitivities, however, it is rather busy-looking and is too large for use with a smaller group.  Ways to partition the space, adapt the lighting, make it more comfortable and minimize visual content were discussed.

In addition, staff is working with nearby libraries to learn about any inclusive services and programs that they are currently providing. Several libraries in the region are partnering to offer special programming on a rotating basis so that families in the larger community have a weekly option for special programs, such as sensory storytimes.  Toward this end, the Mokena Public Library Children’s Department is planning to offer a monthly sensory-friendly program.  Staff members from the Children’s Department are also working on adapting activity kits for circulation.

Collaborations are underway with local service organizations in the area. Partnering with service providers will lend expertise for environmental or programmatic changes in the library. The library will then explore ways to enhance or adapt their programs and services specifically for individuals and families connected to the providers.  In this way, they hope to reach children, adults and families that may have never used the library before.

Because community access to reliable resources plays an essential role for public libraries, the Mokena Library has prioritized the development and expansion of an autism resource center. Parents, caregivers, educators and residents will be able to rely on well-vetted resources along with the personalized assistance of librarians and staff.

Clearly, the Mokena Community Public Library strives each day to achieve their mission as the most welcoming and inclusive library possible. The staff is dedicated to forming alliances with their patrons in order to serve them with information, access to useful resources, and opportunities for socialization and personal growth.  They successfully collaborate within the Village of Mokena and the greater community to find opportunities that will engage people and get them excited to use their library.

If you would like to know more about the Targeting Autism project’s consultation and training opportunities, contact Mary Pelich.

Targeting Autism is supported by an LB21 Institute of Museum and Library Services grant and the Illinois State Library.


Autism Welcome Here Grant Program is Making a Difference

Posted on Updated on

One significant outcome of the first Targeting Autism Forum in 2015 was the creation of the Autism Welcome Here Grant Program conceived by Barbara Klipper during a small group brainstorming session about strategies to help libraries become more inclusive of the ASD population.


For five years, beginning in 2016 a total of $5000.00 is awarded to a library or libraries for developing initiatives that benefit individuals with ASD and their families. The winners are invited to the annual Targeting Autism Forum, where they introduce their projects to other librarians and representatives of organizations serving people with ASD.

The 2016 winners included the Simsbury (CT) Public Library and Tarrant County College, Fort Worth, TX.  To see how their projects have made an impact on their local communities, visit the Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected web page.

A Call Out to Libraries Offering Programs for Individuals with Autism!!!

Posted on Updated on


Please take time to share your offerings with us.   Whether it’s sensory storytime, job coaching, gaming nights, sensory friendly movie nights, etc…

We want to know what programming makes your library inviting to individuals with autism so that we can share, nationwide, evidence that your library is an autism welcoming place.

Targeting Autism has a unique opportunity through a collaboration with Autism Speaks to promote your programs on their website event calendar.

Tell us who you are, where you are located and what programs make your library autism friendly.

Please send your information to Suzanne Schriar




Libraries Taking on Autism: A Movement for Collaborative Solutions

Posted on

For those who will be attending the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Chicago, consider attending a panel discussion entitled, Libraries Taking on Autism: A Movement for Collaborative Solutions on Saturday, June 24th, 8:30-10:00am, McCormick Place, W175a.

Program description:

Targeting Autism brought Illinois librarians, people with autism and autism experts to the Illinois State Library to learn, share ideas and plan for new projects. Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected provides training and a national clearinghouse. The Autism Welcome Here grant funds library programs or services aimed at people with autism. Learn how to tap into the foundational work of these groundbreaking initiatives to better serve the people with autism in your community.

Panel members pictured above









Authors from the Targeting Autism Forums: An Annotated Bibliography

Posted on Updated on

Carley, Michael John. Asperger’s from the Inside Out: A Supportive and Practical Guide for  Anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome. New York: Perigee, 2008.

“An intimate, engaging, and insightful guide to coping with Asperger’s-from one of the condition’s most passionate advocates. Michael John Carley was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at thirty-six-when his young son received the same diagnosis. This fascinating book reveals his personal experience with the confusion and trauma associated with this condition-and offers insights into living an independent and productive life. Now the Executive Director of the world’s largest Asperger’s oranization, Carley helps readers in such areas as: – Social interactions – Nurturing interests – Whom to confide in-and how – Dealing with family and loved ones – Finding work that suits your strengths and talents” –Back Cover

Carley, Michael John. Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum: How to Cope Productively with the Effects of Unemployment and Jobhunt with Confidence. Philadelphia : Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016.

“Unemployment can be an isolating experience. In this much-needed book, Michael John Carley reassures readers who are unemployed and have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that they are not alone. Offering guidance on how you can cope with unemployment in a constructive and emotionally healthy manner, Michael John Carley writes with a crucial understanding of the isolation and negative emotions that unemployment can bring about if you have ASD. He explains why so many people find themselves out of work and how it’s often not their fault. Providing guidance on how to maintain your confidence and motivation, this book offers advice on how you can pursue other opportunities, such as part-time work or volunteering. The book also features advice on how to manage your finances during periods of unemployment.”—Back Cover

Eldred-Cohen, C., & Joya, A. D. (2016). The fire truck who got lost. San Jose, CA: Colin Eldred-Cohen.

“The Fire Truck Who Got Lost is a wonderful story for children who will meet little Barnabus and the older fire trucks who care for him – Wheelie Dan, Agua, Hogwash, Turpentine and, of course, the Big Dalmatian. Little Barnabus gets lost in the big city and has to find his way back to the fire station. It’s a story about getting lost somewhere big and imposing and finding a solution by being smart. What started as a simple story about the importance of family and perseverance has come to life through Amber De Joya’s beautiful artwork. Your children will love the story and grow to love Barnabus.” –Amazon website

Davin, A. (2016). Being seen: a memoir about me: an autistic mother, a French immigrant and a Zen student. Shippenville, PA: Silverxord Publishing, Inc.

“Being Seen is a memoir about a woman with autism struggling not only to be seen, but to be understood and respected. Anlor Davin grew up in a small town on the Western coast of France. From earliest childhood she was beset by overwhelming sensory chaos and had trouble navigating the social world. Only many years later did she learn that she was autistic. Throughout childhood, Anlor struggled to hold her world together and in many ways succeeded: she became an accomplished young tennis player, competing even at the level of the French Open. However, in addition to her autism a dark history hung over her family—a history that she did not fully understand for years to come. Without yet having a name for her world-shattering condition, Anlor headed to a new life in America. But she now had to contend with the raw basics of survival in a new culture, speaking a new language, and without support from her family. Through incredible effort, Anlor was able to parlay her knowledge of the French language into a job teaching in the notorious South Side neighborhood of Chicago, one of America’s most violent. Anlor married, had a child, and even dreamed that she might be able to pass as a neurotypical person. The grim toll of daily compensating for her autism and “pretending to be normal” proved too great a challenge and Anlor’s life imploded. She spiraled downward into a kind of hell, losing her marriage and her beloved son. Desperate, Anlor moved west to California, where she found a mysterious and ancient tradition of spiritual practice from the Far East—zen. Through this profound meditation and community she was able to slowly rebuild her life, this time with honest acceptance of the challenge she faced. The path took her through extreme emotional and physical duress but—at last—led to proper medical diagnosis and treatment of her autism. Today, Anlor works to help people understand her way of being, and the value of basic meditative practice in living and thriving with autism.” –Back Cover

Donvan, J., & Zucker, C. (2016). In a different key: the story of autism. New York: Crown .

Nearly seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family’s odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism–by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different. It is the story of women like Ruth Sullivan, who rebelled against a medical establishment that blamed cold and rejecting “refrigerator mothers” for causing autism; and of fathers who pushed scientists to dig harder for treatments. Many others played starring roles too: doctors like Leo Kanner, who pioneered our understanding of autism; lawyers like Tom Gilhool, who took the families’ battle for education to the courtroom; scientists who sparred over how to treat autism; and those with autism, like Temple Grandin, Alex Plank, and Ari Ne’eman, who explained their inner worlds and championed the philosophy of neurodiversity. This is also a story of fierce controversies–from the question of whether there is truly an autism “epidemic,” and whether vaccines played a part in it; to scandals involving “facilitated communication,” one of many treatments that have proved to be blind alleys; to stark disagreements about whether scientists should pursue a cure for autism. There are dark turns too: we learn about experimenters feeding LSD to children with autism, or shocking them with electricity to change their behavior; and the authors reveal compelling evidence that Hans Asperger, discoverer of the syndrome named after him, participated in the Nazi program that consigned disabled children to death. By turns intimate and panoramic, In a Different Key takes us on a journey from an era when families were shamed and children were condemned to institutions to one in which a cadre of people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability” – Jacket

Farmer, Lesley S. J. Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Chicago: American Library Association, 2014.

“Autism is now the second most commonly diagnosed serious developmental disability, and the number of children identified as autistic continues to grow. Introducing what autism spectrum disorders are, and identifying the great need to build and manage programs for different youth with these disorders, Farmer offers librarians in or outside a school environment all the information they need to build a library literacy program geared towards these children. Designed to both awaken sensitivities of library staff and address the questions of those who are already aware of the issue, this book

  • Shows how children with this diagnosis are increasingly mainstreamed into traditional library and school programs and identifies the special needs and issues they face in a library setting
  • Equips readers to meet the needs of young library users who are autistic with practical tools for training library staff, teachers, and volunteers
  • Explains hyperlexia, the main barrier to the development of literacy among these children, and how programs using sensory experiences can strengthen both literacy skills and socialization
  • Proposes strategies for using library design to ensure that materials and resources are accessible to all patrons

Including a glossary of terms and bibliography of additional resources, Farmer’s book is an important tool for raising awareness and supporting literacy development for children with these disorders in the library setting.” – Amazon website

Feinberg, S., Jordan, B. A., Banks, C. S., & Banks, C. (2014). Including Families of Children with Special Needs A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians, Revised Edition. New York: American Library Association.

“More than 6.5 million children in the US receive special education services; in any given community, approximately one child out of every six will get speech therapy, go to counseling, attend classes exclusively with other children with disabilities, or receive some other service that allows him or her to learn. This new revised edition is a step-by-step guide to serving children and youth with disabilities as well as the family members, caregivers, and other people involved in their lives. The authors show how staff can enable full use of the library s resources by integrating the methods of educators, medical and psychological therapists, social workers, librarians, parents, and other caregivers. Widening the scope to address the needs of teens as well as preschool and school-age children, this edition also discusses the needs of Spanish-speaking children with disabilities and their families, looking at cultural competency as well as Spanish-language resources. Enhanced with checklists, stories based on real experiences, descriptions of model programs and resources, and an overview of appropriate internet sites and services, this how-to gives thorough consideration to

  • Partnering and collaborating with parents and other professionals
  • Developing special collections and resources
  • Assessing competencies and skills
  • Principles underlying family-centered services and resource-based practices
  • The interrelationship of early intervention, special education, and library service

This manual will prove valuable not only to children s services librarians, outreach librarians, and library administrators, but also early intervention and family support professionals, early childhood and special educators, childcare workers, daycare and after school program providers, and policymakers.” –Amazon website

Hodgdon, L. A. (2000). Solving behavior problems in autism: improving communication with visual strategies. Troy, MI: QuirkRoberts Publishing.

“Learn to use simple tools to manage the behavior challenges common in students on the autism spectrum. Linda Hodgdon’s book provides a very effective, practical approach to recognizing the complexity of behavior challenges with autism and other students with communication and learning dificulties. These strategies help you to help students to participate in their life opportunities in a positive way. Continuing the approach of supporting communication with visual strategies, this book is packed with problem solving techniques. You will find many samples and examples of visual tools and strategies that have been used effectively to solve behavior problems. This is the second book in the Visual Strategies series. It follows the same style and format as the bestselling Visual Strategies for Improving Communication. It is another resource guaranteed to provide practical help for every educator or parent who faces students with behavior and self-management challenges. This book will delight you!” –Amazon website

Hodgdon, L. A. (2013). Visual strategies for improving communication: practical supports for autism spectrum disorders. Troy, MI: QuirkRoberts Publishing.

Visual Strategies provide practical support to help students participate successfully in their life opportunities

  • Packed with visual supports to enhance communication interactions for students with autism and related communication challenges
  • A “how-to” book, designed to assist teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists, parents and other communication partners in creating solutions to student communication and self-management challenges
  • Full of sample visual tools that capitalize on the visual strengths and learning styles of these individuals” – Back Cover

King, Brian R. Strategies for Building Successful Relationships with People on the Autism Spectrum: Let’s Relate!. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012.

“Containing life-changing strategies and solutions, this book will enable everyone who knows, lives with or works with an individual with autism to achieve a positive relationship that fosters cooperation and mutual respect.

The author has dedicated over 20 years to studying, observing and implementing communication strategies that help him, his wife, their three children and his clients experience positive relationships. His immediate family are all on the autism spectrum and they work together to understand one another, resolve misunderstandings, and help each other feel important, loved and respected. Sharing their inspirational personal experiences and interweaving every chapter with practical hints and tips, the book looks at how to get communication working for everyone and emphasizes the importance of laying down ground rules and building confidence.

This book will be essential reading for family, friends and professionals who wish to communicate more effectively with those on the autism spectrum.” –Amazon website


Klipper, Barbara. Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder. 2014.

“Those who understand the unique sensitivities of young people with autism spectrum disorder, now the second most commonly diagnosed serious developmental disability, know that ordinary library programming guides are not up to the task of effectively serving these library users. Klipper has presented at conferences and trained librarians from around the country in autism awareness, and the grant-funded Sensory Storytime programming she developed at The Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut is a model for reaching children with autism spectrum disorder. Her complete programming guide, ideal for audiences ranging from preschool through school-age children, teens, and families,

  • Provides background information on the disorder to help librarians understand how to program for this special audience
  • Features step-by-step programs from librarians across the country, adaptable for both public and school library settings
  • Suggests methods for securing funding and establishing partnerships with community organizations
  • Includes a list of additional resources that will prove valuable to librarians and parents/caregivers alike

Klipper’s deep knowledge and experience on the subject makes her guidance on serving these library users and their families invaluable.” –Amazon website


Presentations from all the authors listed are archived on the Targeting Autism YouTube Channel














2017 “Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More” Grant Winner Honored at Targeting Autism Forum

Posted on Updated on


Daniel Flores and Dianne Aimone

Wisner Public Library was the 2017 winner of the “Autism Welcome Here: Library Programs, Services and More” Grant.  Representing the Wisner Library at the Targeting Autism Forum was YA Librarian, Dianne Aimone.

The Wisner Library will receive $5,000 for their project, “Improve Your Social Library: Social Skills for Tweens and Teens with Autism.  The grant funds will be used to provide a series of workshops designed to support the development of social skills for teens and tweens with ASD.  Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the library, form a book group, enhance their social media etiquette, express themselves through art projects, play board games, take part in a group dance, and more.  The program has three primary goals: introduce and encourage social skills that teens and tweens can apply in the library and beyond; provide those on the spectrum and their families a safe and familiar place in the community; demonstrate respect for neurodiversity and inclusion.

Barbara Klipper, creator of the grant program was delighted at this year’s pick.”…Their parent-initiated proposal was well-written, is easily replicable and serves an often overlooked subgroup of the ASD population…”


2017 Targeting Autism Forum — A Huge Success!

Posted on Updated on

The 2017 Targeting Autism Forum, held on May 11-12 was educational and offered a  group of library staff, autism and other disabilities service providers, teachers and therapists  from Illinois, as well as, nationwide and Canada, an opportunity to network with over 80 “like minded”  people who share their vision of a world that is inclusive of autism and other hidden disabilities.  While the forum included a variety of topics pertaining to all ages, many of our speakers and panels addressed the issue employment and support for individuals who are transitioning out of high school.

The following includes photos from the forum.  All sessions were recorded and are available on the Targeting Autism YouTube Channel.  Links to individual presentations are highlighted below:

Michael John Carley

Michael John Carley — author of Asperger’s From the Inside Out and Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum.  Carley was also the founder and first Executive Director of GRASP an former Executive Director of ASTEP.  Click here to view presentation,   Part I and Part II.


from left to right: Philip Zupon, Dan O’Hara, Ata Bird, Tina Dolcetti and Russ Bonanno (moderator)

Employed and on the SpectrumA panel discussion with Philip Zupon, Librarian, Ionia Correctional Facility; Dan O’Hara, Librarian, Midlothian Public Library; Ata Bird, Teacher/BCaBA, Champaign, IL; Tina Dolcetti, Librarian, Moose Jaw Public Library. Moderated by Russ Bonanno, The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP).  Click here to view the presentation, Part I and Part II.

Brian R. King

The Role of Relationships in Successful Adulting with ASDBrian R. King, author of Strategies for Building Successful Relationships with People on the Autism Spectrum.  Click here to view the presentation.

Donald Cohen, Colin Eldred-Cohen, Anlor Davin, and Greg Yates

Sparking Creative Expression for Adults on the Spectrum and Ideas for Libraries.  An engaging presentation about the path to creative writing, publishing and the special difficulties that creative people on the spectrum face and how libraries can support them.  Colin Eldred-Cohen, author of children’s book, The Fire Truck Who Got Lost and Anlor Davin, author of Being Seen.  Click here to view the presentation Part I and Part II.

Linda Hodgdon

5 Essentials for Engineering the Library Environment to Meet the Needs of the Autism Community.  Linda Hodgdon, author of Visual Strategies For Improving Communication, autism consultant, referred to as “The Queen of Visuals,” shares how a few easy accommodations can provide significant opportunity for patrons to benefit from libraries.  Click here to view the presentation.

Carrie Banks

Inclusion in the Library: Making it Real presented by Carrie Banks, Director, Brooklyn Public Library’s Inclusive Services and author of Including Families of Children with Special Needs.  Click here to view presentation, Part I and Part II.

Debra Vines, Keisha Hester and Katrina Thompson

Exploring Library Services for Underserved Populations.  Debra Vines, Founder & Executive Director of The Answer, Inc., along with Keisha Hester and Katrina Thompson explore the impact of autism in communities of color and the important charge for libraries to engage all members of their community.  Click here to view presentation.

Carlos and David Ovalle, Arturo Cabral, Philip Marsh, Carlos Espinoza and Virginia Murray

Tu Y Yo’s Dream Libraries.  Tu Y Yo is Grupo Salto’s peer mentorship group for adolescents and adult autism self-advocates serving the Chicagoland area.  The group name Tu Y Yo is the Spanish phrase for “you and I’ which expresses connection to the Spanish speaking cultures many of the participants come from.  Their panel shares ideas to make libraries more inclusive learning environments.  Click here to view the presentation.

Magi Henderson and Janet McAllister

Libraries Providing Work Experiences for Those on the Spectrum — A Report by Magi Henderson, Glen Carbon Centennial Library and Janet McAllister, Rochester Public Library.  Click here to view the presentation.

Beth Paoli and Debra Aggertt

Library Departments Working Together Toward Inclusion — A Report by Beth Paoli, Literacy Consultant, IL State Library, and Debra Aggertt, Associate Director for Library Development, IL State Library.  Click here to view the presentation.