Getting Ready for the 2017 Targeting Autism Forum!!

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With the support of grant funds from the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), the Illinois State Library is very excited to be hosting the third annual Targeting Autism forum on May 11-12 in Springfield, IL. These forums provide an educational venue for librarians and various other autism stakeholders to learn from one another and to elevate the role of libraries in supporting the large population of those impacted by autism.



We are thrilled to announce that one of our keynote speakers this year is Michael John Carley, the Founder, and first Executive Director of GRASP, the largest organization comprised of adults on the autism spectrum. Carley’s presentation will focus on topics covered in his new book “Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum,” Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016.


From Michael John Carley’s website:

He [Michael John Carley] has appeared in the media widely, most notably in the New York Times, Washington Post, NY Newsday, the London Times, HuffPost Live, NEWSWEEK OnAir, ABCNews, BBC News, FOX News Network, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Psychology Today, Exceptional Parent Magazine, and on radio with Terry Gross’ Fresh Air, and The Infinite Mind. NPR News also aired a 12-minute story in June of 2006 that featured he and GRASP. Carley was also featured in the documentaries, “On the Spectrum,” and “Off the Rails.” He was one of two people on the spectrum to address Congress in their first-ever hearings on autism, he has addressed the United Nations, and his articles have been published in magazines such as Autism Spectrum News, Autism Spectrum Quarterly, and Autism/Asperger Digest. He has a column with Huffington Post (“Autism Without Fear”) and his first two books, Asperger’s From the Inside Out: A Supportive and Practical Guide for Anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome (Penguin/Perigee, April, 2008) and Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum (Jessica Kingsley, February, 2016) were both released to humbling advance reviews. He has also finished two more books; a) “Why Am I Afraid of Sex?” Building Sexual Confidence in the Autism Spectrum . . . and Maybe Everyone Else!; and b) The Last Memoir of Asperger’s Syndrome.

He was the inaugural FAR Fund Fellow in 2003; and he has since received NYFAC’s Ben Kramer Award (2008), the BCID Award for Service (2009), Columbia University’s Herbert M. Cohen Lecture (2011), and Eden II’s Peter McGowan & John Potterfield Achievement Award (2011). He also proudly sits on the Board of Directors of New York Collaborates for Autism, and the Advisory Boards of GallopNYC, and C.H.A.S.E.

Until 2001, Mr. Carley was the United Nations Representative of Veterans for Peace, Inc. In that time, he was known primarily for his work in Bosnia, and in Iraq as the Project Director of the internationally acclaimed Iraq Water Project. Prior to 2001 he was also a playwright who enjoyed 15 productions and 10 readings of his plays in New York.”

Stayed tuned for more information, including registration details and a complete agenda for the 2017 Targeting Autism forum.

White Paper Describes the Impact of the Targeting Autism National Forums

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Libraries Partnering to Serve the Autism Community: National Forums Offer Direction is the result of two national forums that were convened at the Illinois State Library in 2015 and 2016. The forums, which were funded through the National Leadership Grant (NLG) Program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), exposed the need for libraries throughout Illinois and across the nation to better serve patrons and families affected by autism.

The entire report is available here.


Targeting 2017 as an auspicious year for all!!!

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If 2016 has been challenging, the New Year always brings us the promise of starting afresh.  We take time to reflect, evaluate priorities and set new goals.  Make one of your resolutions for the New Year to become more active in the discussions about autism and inclusive communities.  Join our discussion list and share your insights.  Add your personal experiences to the rich dialogue.  Each of us has a responsibility to engage with our communities.  Embracing diversity demands open dialogue.  Even the smallest attempt to engage can spark positive change in our world.   In 2017, let’s make a commitment to break down the barriers that divide us.  We can begin with a conversation.


Taking Care of Yourself During the Holiday Season

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Many people are unaware that sensory overload affects adults with autism as well as children.  Adults can still experience anxiety, panic, even meltdowns when sensory stimuli becomes just too much.  The holidays can be extremely difficult for children and adults with heightened sensitivities because the environment is so charged with sensory stimuli – malls are crowded, traffic is backed up, lights are twinkling, stores are noisy.  The social anxiety that often accompanies autism can also make holiday office parties and family gatherings even more stressful.

 Here’s how to cope:

Know Thyself:

First, know yourself and your limitations.  Being aware of your sensory triggers will help you to avoid or minimize them in many situations.  It’s also important to think about what soothes you.  What makes you feel safe?  What helps calm you?  Where is your favorite “feel-good” place?  These calming mechanisms can be used as a tool when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

 Managing crowds:

 If you have shopping to do, go at non-peak times – early in the morning or very late at night.  Most stores have extended hours throughout the holiday season that makes this possible.  Consider using Uber or public transportation to avoid the hassles of bumper-to-bumper traffic.  If music calms you, listen to your own tracks through headphones or earbuds while you shop. 

Think about where you’re going ahead of time.  Is there a quiet bookstore or coffee shop nearby to offer a less stimulating environment if you get stressed?  Eat before you leave or bring snacks with you.  Everyone gets more stressed-out when they’re hungry!  Plan for breaks and know when enough is enough.  When you start to feel overwhelmed – STOP.  Go home or to your soothing spot to reset.

 Handling anxiety:

 If you need to self-soothe – do it!  Wear a chewable necklace, bring a fidget in your pocket.  Being able to calm yourself is more important than any perceptions that others might have of you.

 Social situations:

 Plan ahead – if you know the physical layout, identify a quiet room that you can go to when you get overstimulated.  Be open with family and friends about how social situations make you feel.  Is there a trusted sibling or friend that can be your “sensory coach” if things get overwhelming?  Can you develop a cue or code for a break?  If possible, take a walk outside when it gets to be too much.  Set a time limit for the office party and try to stick to it.  If you feel yourself shutting down or getting overwhelmed, take a break, go to a quiet spot or leave if you need to.

 Let’s face it, we all get overwhelmed sometimes.  Sensory overload happens to all of us – times when we feel we feel like we’re going to implode, explode or just need to shut down.  During the holiday season, we all need to take a step back, be sensitive, take care of ourselves and take extra care of our loved ones and friends, especially those who have heightened sensitivities.

 Follow our blog and join the discussion list for more tips and help.



Illinois State Library Receives Demco Innovation Award for Targeting Autism Forum!

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Suzanne Schriar is pictured with Angie Schoeneck (r) to accept the Demco Library Innovation Award on behalf of the Illinois State Library, in recognition of the Targeting Autism Forum. “This award recognizes a library, library consortium, or library system’s achievement in planning and implementing an innovative or creative program or service, which has had measurable impact on its users.”

Heartfelt appreciation goes to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and to everyone who contributed to the enormous success of the forums.

Targeting Autism is now in Phase Two of IMLS funding. We look forward to inspiring and educating autism stakeholders at the 2017 Targeting Autism Forum, Springfield, IL, on May 11-12.


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Targeting Autism Loses a Great Mentor and Pioneer in Autism Advocacy

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Meg Kolaya served the community as Director of Scotch Plains Public Library, from 2002 until her retirement in 2015. Meg was a pioneer for what has become a national movement towards inclusion of all community members through her pioneering efforts with Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected .  Under her leadership, Scotch Plains Public Library became the first library in New Jersey to host “Next Chapter Book Club” for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Using funding from their regional library cooperative, Meg and Dan Weiss, Director, Fanwood Public Library, NJ developed a website, a training video and embarked on a nation-wide training program, often speaking at library conferences. In 2009 Meg was presented with a national award by the American Library Association for her Libraries and Autism project.

The Targeting Autism Project would not have developed without the direction and co-leadership of Meg Kolaya and Dan Weiss and their highly esteemed program Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.  Between 2013-2014, I talked with Meg, via long phone calls and Skype sessions on numerous occasions.  She helped expand my understanding of all that libraries could do to be more collaborative, welcoming and a valuable resource to the autism community.  Regretfully, Meg’s illness precluded any opportunity for an in-person meeting,  yet I will always be grateful for her inspiration and for all the energy she gave to make libraries and the world a better place.

Meg’s legacy continues through an annual $5,000 grant sponsored by Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected. The first-year grant winners were present at the 2016 Targeting Autism Forum first-year grant winners were present at the 2016 Targeting Autism Forum to receive their awards.

We are Grateful for Your Readership!!

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Today we surpassed 10,000 views on our blog!  Our readers come from 64 countries across the globe.  Help us increase support for our global autism community.  Join in the discussion about libraries and autism!  Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!