Personal Stories

The Targeting Autism Project is grateful to the power of social media in extending the project reach beyond those individuals who are attending the in-person forums. Toward this end, we are launching an effort to collect personal stories, nationwide, that describe an individual’s connection to autism and a statement as to why this initiative is important.

Your stories make a difference. Let us hear from you!

75 thoughts on “Personal Stories

    Anonymous said:
    November 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    We have received many comments and emails from people showing their appreciation for the work that Targeting Autism does to help libraries contribute to making society more inclusive of the large population of individuals and families impacted by autism. With the following letter, I am reassured to know that new people, entering the profession, recognize the importance of spreading this mission. Thank you Caroljean!


    My name is Caroljean Gavin. I’m a student at the MLIS program at UNCG and a mom with a eleven-year-old son on the autism spectrum.

    I just really wanted to reach out. Librarianship is basically a second-career for me, I don’t have any experience actually working in a library yet. Because of my experience with my son though, because of the prevalence of autism, and because libraries, schools, and society really seems often not to really understand or be responsive to the needs of those on the spectrum, to actually provide what they actually need, basically every project and assignment I can I’ve turned into an autism lib guide or an exploration of how libraries can do better for this population.

    I was not aware of the Targeting Autism Project, until one of my instructors came across the Autism Basics Webinar while helping me look for resource possibilies for an upcoming term paper. I attended the webinar and while I’m not sure I got information applicable to my paper, I do feel as if I have stumbled upon a community of professionals who are doing the work that needs to be done, that are having the conversations that need to be had, and really, it lightens my heart and makes me feel hopeful for the future.

    While I am interested in autism in general and how to better serve everyone with autism and their families, the term paper I’m working on is concerned with adults on the spectrum. It seems as if every library has some kind of sensory story time, and some libraries extend programs and services to teens, but once those with ASD become adults it seems services and programming just drop off. The need isn’t less. They still have trouble with social skills. They face unique challenges when it comes to employment and to participating fully in society and in their communities.

    What I am trying to do then is to compare the service, services, programming for adults with autism the library in my community (Winston-Salem, NC) with what some of the actual needs are, take a look at that gap, and come up with some suggestions to fill it. A huge part of this for me is to make people, libraries, the community see that there is still a huge need, that all these children are growing up and we can’t just take off their water wings and let them go at the crazy ocean of life without support.

    While researching, I discovered there is a Next Chapter Book Club in Winston-Salem, but that it is not sponsored by nor does it take place in the library. Why not? Doing so would be of benefit to the library, to the Book club and to the members who once in the library could be introduced to other resources. We also have community organizations that work with people of all ages on the spectrum, yet there is no collaboration with the library.

    Library school is a nice little bubble. I can be as idealistic as I like in here, and I know that once I do get a job in a library, I will most likely not be able to attack and solve all the problems we have with providing what the autism community needs like I want to, but while I am in this warm little, sunshine-y bubble, without naysayers and the realities of bosses and budgets, I really want to explore everything I can that is being done and that could be done.

    The webinar, the resources on the Targeting Autism for Libraries site, and very much the videos from the forums have been providing me with so much information, additional resources for my paper, but it has all also been fuel for my passion.

    Usually, when I present a paper, or the lib guide I did, I feel whether from students or instructors I get a little pat on the head, a little “You’re right this is important. And your poor son, no wonder.” But that they don’t really get it.

    I want to thank you and the Targeting Autism Project for “getting it”, for caring, for pushing, for working, for advocating, for everything.


    Caroljean Gavin


    […] Personal Stories […]


    Rachel Combs said:
    September 1, 2017 at 11:43 am

    After my son was diagnosed with autism in April 2015, I began seeking information and resources to better understand him and his diagnosis. Amidst my search for information, I realized that there was a sea of information to wade through and I experienced information overload as most parents facing the same situation do. As if a new diagnosis wasn’t challenging enough, now I had to find quality, helpful information sources to help me navigate this transition and find ways to effectively support and advocate for him.

    While I have a full-time position as a Public Services Manager at one of the University of Kentucky’s branch libraries, I am also currently completing my master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Throughout the tenure of my academic career, I have spent considerable time researching the specific information needs and information seeking behaviors of underrepresented groups, specifically those with different abilities. In several courses, I have been given some flexibility with establishing a topic for a term paper or literature review. Because of this freedom, I consistently choose to examine areas related to those with disabilities, primarily Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

    In the fall of 2016, I decided to conduct an independent study as part of my graduate program focusing my efforts to create a Library Employee Sensitivity training video. My intention was to educate library staff on how to interact with and serve individuals with disabilities (IWDs) and to raise staff awareness so that they can proactively detect barriers that IWDs face when accessing library facilities, services, collections, programs, and resources. Additionally, my goal was for staff to identify ways to minimize these barriers and maximize the ways that libraries can accommodate patrons with disabilities. This digital instructional tool was shared with the entire University of Kentucky Library system. Additionally, it will be shared with 100 library student assistants this fall.

    Furthermore, I thought it would be helpful to have a LibGuide where I could organize and house resources that might benefit individuals with ASD and those who support them. I continuously update the guide with more resources and I welcome recommendations from experts and other professionals. While I was compiling this list of resources, I found the Targeting Autism for Libraries blog page during a review of the Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected web page. I reached out to Mary Pelich, Targeting Autism Consultant and Trainer, who instantly became a huge resource during my journey to compile and update my LibGuide. She graciously invited me to attend this year’s Targeting Autism Forum in Illinois and it was a fantastic opportunity for me! I was provided with some wonderful insights and resources that have helped me in my professional quest to educate libraries on effective strategies for helping individuals with autism. It was such an educational opportunity to brainstorm with others in the field and discuss ways to improve the library experience. I was so impressed with the forum and I only wish that each state would follow Illinois’ lead in this necessary mission.


    Autism parent from Fontana, CA said:
    October 24, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    My Autistic daughters right to be in a library in the city of Fontana went out the window . They escorted us out because she was disruptive. She was having an Episode.!!! Her Right to be there was Not to be there!!!!!! This happened on June 30 th of this year. This Library needs immediate attention towards Autistic human beings!!!! ASAP.


    Academic Librarian, University of Maryland said:
    October 24, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    “…As an academic librarian now, I assume some of my students and faculty are on the Autism spectrum and I think its a good thing.. I’m sure those individuals have a unique perspective and likely are just as knowledgeable or more so about their intellectual passions. I imagine it could be challenging in public libraries where the range in patron types might mean that the capacity to deal with anyone outside expectations is not always met kindly. I’m glad some education is going on with librarians to raise awareness and sensitively to this issue…”

    Liked by 1 person

    Sheryl Siebert, Director, Chenoa Public Library said:
    March 17, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Suzanne, the Autism Forum could not have been better. Thank you so much. It will help our library a lot.

    I found out from our Chenoa elementary principal that out of 186 students in his school, 15 are on the Autism Spectrum.

    Also, since the Forum last week, I contacted Sean, a young man with suspected autism who occasionally comes into the library. I asked him to volunteer at our library and he said YES. After what I learned at the forum, I think he really is autistic, but not severely. He’s 22, does not have a job and lives with his mom. I think we can be of help to him.

    I am excited about getting to know him and having him around the library more. He is the one I spoke about in my short presentation. YEAH !!

    So your forum created immediate results here.

    Thanks to you and everyone who created a perfect forum for us.


    Karen Stott Bersche, Director, Towanda District Library said:
    January 26, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    The results of the Community Survey about our library revealed that the public thinks this library is uniquely positioned to serve both as a safe and welcoming gathering spot for families and as a provider of free information and resources tailored to meet the needs of community members who may not be able to afford to purchase materials on their own.

    I would like to learn how to specifically expand this welcome to families with children on the spectrum. I feel that parents who are afraid to bring their child to the library are depriving themselves and their families of enriching and educational experiences in the library. We welcome the opportunity to serve all members of our community!

    I am very proud that my library has provided high school sponsored student internships and volunteer opportunities for students with special needs. Perceptive student worker supervisors have correctly identified our library as an appropriate and nurturing work environment for special needs students. Each of the three students has returned for a second year…providing 6 years of valuable services to our library.

    Personally, I have a 5-year-old grandson with Autism. I have seen how difficult it is for a family to accept such a diagnosis and how important it is for a family to be surrounded by a strong community support network. One shining example is that Easter Seals has been a marvelous community asset for the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area.

    We have recommended Easter Seal services to children who attend our library Preschool Story Hours and watched Easter Seals services benefit them greatly. The library provides one more social venue for such children to practice their skills. We watch proudly and support liberally the strides the children make once they are receiving support services from agencies such as Easter Seals.

    I would like to help our library staff learn how to build ongoing partnerships with ASD stakeholders in our community. I would like to incorporate greater knowledge of ASD into planning programming that appeals to affected families.

    My goal in participating in this project is to learn more about ASD and bring the knowledge back to the library and further integrate it into the programming we do.

    Specifically, I would like to host at least two training sessions provided by outside agencies in our library for parents and staff to learn more about the special needs and talents of individuals on the spectrum.

    My chief goal in attending the Targeting Autism forums is to gather ideas for ways that Towanda District Library can more effectively serve the ASD community in the Bloomington-Normal-Towanda area.


    Annette Bland, Assistant Director, Columbia Public Library said:
    January 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    As of now our library has not really targeted much in the area of ASD. We do have some materials but it would be wonderful if we could do more to reach out to these families. I recently attended a meeting with our SWAYS group in O’fallon, IL. This meeting was such an eye opener. I really had no idea just how many are affected. It made me think…. How many families are we not targeting or helping in our community?
    I also believe we have a few patrons who’s children might be in the autism spectrum that visit the library but I never gave much thought about how differently they may see the library.
    It was suggested that a possible link about what to expect at the library be available on our website. Kits could also be made available. A future goal is to put together some type of video that would help those better understand what to expect when they visit our library.
    About five years ago we had a high school volunteer with Autism help us at the library. That was one of the few interactions to my knowledge I have had.
    I believe it is important that our community feel that they can come to the library for answers and that everyone feels comfortable and welcomed in doing so. If we focus more on what those resources are that could help them I think it is a step in the right direction.
    I would hate to miss out on this opportunity that could help so many in our community that we might otherwise be missing in the Autism spectrum.


    Adria Nassim said:
    October 27, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    I was diagnosed with mild autism spectrum disorder, nonverbal learning disability, cerebral palsy and seizure disorder. As a child, I was characterized as polite, helpful, generally happy and eager, but struggled with change/transition, liked routine, predictability, found pleasure in solitary activity I.e. coloring, music, learned to love books at a young age. Because I often struggled to make and maintain friendships, I spent a lot of time reading to keep myself occupied.
    My social world became increasingly difficult during adolescence, with newly required skills like sarcasm, conformity, and romantic relationships. My academic workload became increasingly demanding. Reading and academics become an escape from the loneliness, isolation, and bullying experienced at school.
    I received a B.A. in 2010, from Brescia University, Owensboro, KY, 2010, where I majored in English, with a minor in Spanish. My fondness for learning, my high verbal ability and ease of performing language related tasks served me well academically. I could often be found studying or reading in the university library while friends attended social events. I earned the nickname “The Library Rat” for how frequently I went there and how much time spent there.
    I currently go to the public library nearly every day to enjoy a quiet escape from the busy sensory overload of life in a small city; have a daily routine that includes the familiar, predictable library environment; develop friendships in a low stress environment; borrow FREE books; and am served by a helpful, friendly staff.
    Finally, I am available upon request to conduct training on proper interaction with service dogs.


    Anne Wilson said:
    August 20, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I am a library assistant in a public library in Illinois, and also a single parent of a 13 year-old son with autism. I went to library school, and when I finished, my big dream was to bring the different worlds together: the library, the schools in the area surrounding the library, and the medical community so that all can learn from each other. I have not figured out quite yet how to accomplish this, but it is encouraging to see other people talking about it.


    Magi Henderson, Youth Services Director, Glen Carbon Library said:
    July 24, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Here’s my summation of last night’s ASD Community Outreach meeting attended by parents, educators, and caregivers.

    Last night’s meeting was enlightening and heart breaking. I did not hear any uplifting stories of how libraries made a positive difference in anyone’s life who is affected by ASD. Instead my heart went out to the parents I talked to who were afraid to bring their children to the library because libraries are a “quiet” place and their children wouldn’t fit in or be welcome there.

    That revelation was heart breaking but also renewed a sense of belief in me that we can work to make this situation better for everyone involved.

    I came away from my focus group with three words:

    Perception – there are too many misconceptions that need to be dispelled for everyone (libraries and parents) when it comes to making our state’s libraries welcoming for every patron. Parents who are afraid to bring their child to the library are depriving themselves and their families of enriching and educational experiences in the library.

    Education – we have to find ways to educate librarians on simple ways they can make their libraries a hospitable place for people with ASD, if not on a daily basis, at least for special programs where families and children can be comfortable and accepted for who they are. I know some libraries in the state have created tools that make the education process easier, we need to make everyone aware of them and create additional helpful tools for small libraries that don’t have access to the money or staff to create programming pr train staff themselves.

    Reception – Libraries in Madison and St. Clair counties have some work to do when it comes to being receptive to ASD patrons’ needs. If our perceptions are unclear in regards to ASD the reception will not always be welcome. Libraries seldom have the luxury of having special education trained staff members or extra staff members to assist families with ASD children. How we choose to train Illinois’ library staffs to welcome families with ASD is going to have a direct effect on the value placed on our libraries. As the number of diagnosed cases of ASD continue to increase each year we have to accept that ASD is no longer an exception but a normal situation in our communities.

    Amanda Marti shared a resource guide with the attendees and although people were happy to know there were resources they were put off by the worksheet format and the number of entries that they would have to read through to find help. Part of the process of making Illinois libraries portals for information would be to create an online and print version that would be organized in a more user friendly format and be easy to update. Keeping the database up to date and not recommending any specific service or doctor would be an issue that would have to be addressed so that libraries didn’t give the appearance of recommending anyone specifically.

    There was a lot of information gathered from our four focus groups and I left the meeting with a list of suggestions that I would like to incorporate into our library’s process for serving people with ASD and other special needs patrons. We are meeting on August 11 to consolidate the information obtained last night. I am looking forward to hearing the experiences of other committee members throughout the state when we meet in Springfield.

    Thank you to everyone involved for making this information gathering opportunity available to library workers in Illinois. It is an honor to be part of this group and I am very hopeful that we will work together to make libraries a more welcoming environment and a source of better information and skills for patrons with ASD and other special needs.


    […] to help contribute to this effort?  Targeting Autism has launched a nationwide effort to collect personal stories that describe an individual’s connection to autism and a statement as to why this initiative is […]


    Elizabeth Mackey, Director, Willow Branch Township Library said:
    April 1, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Willow Branch Township Library Director Elizabeth Mackey is trying to make the Cisco-based library friendly for those with developmental disabilities, such as her son Avery who has autism. For complete story see:


    Mary Frazier, Monroe County Public Library, Bloomington, IN said:
    March 31, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I am interested in attending this forum because of my work at the library. I was asked to serve on the Services to People with Disabilities working group which was tasked with reviewing all aspects of our services to this population, to make recommendations, and to create a system-wide recognition of Disabilities Awareness Month in 2014. Because of this assignment I wanted to expand my knowledge, improve ties with local service providers, and put my new knowledge to work in my programming and routine interactions at the library.

    I took several online classes through the American Library Association including Children with Disabilities in the Library (ALSC), Positive Interactions: Making the Library a Welcoming and Empowering Place for People with Disabilities (ASCLA) and Sensory Storytime: Preschool Programming that Makes Sense for Kids with Autism (ALSC).

    I invited Christie Lofland, an Educational Consultant for the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University, to speak at the library’s staff training day. I also attended meetings of the City of Bloomington Council for Community Accessibility and a public forum on best practices in identifying and treating Autism Spectrum Disorders in children.

    I applied the knowledge I gained by establishing two new programs at the Monroe County Public Library: Sensory Storytime and Autism Friendly Movies. The library’s celebration of Disabilities Awareness Month 2014 was recognized by the Indiana Library Federation Programming Award. I was honored personally by the Council for Community Accessibility with their Professional and Community Service Award for 2014.

    In addition to my professional interest, I have a personal one as well. One of my son’s childhood friends has autism. They grew up together in our neighborhood and still hang out and go bowling. I learned a lot from Nathan and his parents about advocacy for people with ASD.


    Dawn Wlezien, Skokie Public Library said:
    March 27, 2015 at 9:59 am

    he reason I would like to participate in the Targeting Autism forums is to provide valuable input as a mother of a autistic son. Secondly, to have a better insight on how I can help the Skokie Public Library serve, educate, bridge the gaps within the Skokie community. Currently working with the ADA population at the library and throughout the community there is so much to learn with the ever rapidly changing population of autism. Knowledge is power, one great asset I learned from having a child with autism. I also found, the best advocates were other parents who shared a similar need.

    Currently working at the Skokie Public Library with the ADA population has allowed me use some valuable resources that were attained through my journey, but I do realize I can make a bigger impact within my current position. I currently have incorporated the special needs students from the local high school assist in delivering books to the homebound population within the community. I would like to incorporate more things such as a Best Buddies group, more on job training, these are just a few ideas.

    I know with my past experiences, sharing ideas and finding a need within the community is all you need to make things happen. Again as I stated earlier, knowledge is power. When people with the similar cause come together, great things happen, and I would greatly like to be apart of this movement to improve things for a fast growing autistic population.


    Jane Aruin, Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital Medical Library said:
    March 27, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I work at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital Medical Library located in Wheaton, IL. It is a non-for-profit 120-beds free standing rehabilitation facility with a Pediatric Program serving children with developmental disabilities and chronic diseases with a special focus on Autism, Cerebral Palsy, ADHA, and TBI.

    During the last 14 years, I have been providing information to Marianjoy physicians, clinicians, patients and their family members including parents of children with developmental disabilities. Since 2009 I have been involved with Information Connections, a web site for parents of children with developmental disabilities which has been funded by the National Library of Medicine. During this period I have helped physicians, clinicians and parents of children with ASD to locate information requests through our Facebook page.

    I am hoping that the Targeting Autism Forums will help us to promote Information Connections to other communities, libraries and organizations.


    Claire Crawford, Director, Geneseo Public Library said:
    March 23, 2015 at 9:33 am

    The conference was wonderful. The librarian’s I sat with discussed how the library was special to Autistic patrons. The library is a source of comfort and peace. It is quiet and there are study rooms for special help. I thought it was important to stress the need for routine and going to the library is a favorite place in their routine. The library is surrounded by happy staff who greet the Autistic patrons and offer to help. Most Autistic patrons love coming to the library for the quiet and the encouraging staff. The library works in providing resources for understanding Autism. The library encourages “sensory storytime” and has the Autistic patron become a part of the project. The library answers questions and stimulates learning. Libraries are the place for communication, collaboration and assessment. Autistic patrons feel the sense of belonging and function as valuable resources in the community.

    Liked by 1 person

    Anonymous said:
    March 23, 2015 at 9:31 am

    I have worked for the Pasadena Public Library system for 13 years, primarily in Youth Services. Over the past three years, I’ve focused my energy on creating meaningful, sustainable library programs for youth with autism and/or sensory processing issues. My experiences working with the ASD population include the following:

    1. Created and implemented a sustainable Sensory Storytime program for preschool age children with autism and/or sensory processing issues. This was made possible through an $8,000 Staff Innovation Fund grant a colleague and I received from the California State Library in September 2013. The response to the first Sensory Storytime session which was held in May 2014 was so overwhelming that we had to wait list 35 families. We are currently conducting our fourth session and plan to offer at least five six-week sessions per year. Since July, 2014, our library system has served 60 families with one or more children on the spectrum.
    2. Fostered collaborations with autism organizations in the community to offer parent education and other family support programs for families who have children with special needs.
    3. Implemented a library volunteer program for teens with autism. The program is designed to provide opportunities for teens to work on their social skills and obtain valuable work experience. Teens are sent to our library via WorkAbility I (a school-to-work program for high school students in special education programs) and Villa Esperanza Services (a nonprofit committed to the education of persons with disabilities). I work one-on-one with the teens in the program (2-4 per year) while they are completing their hours.

    I have so much more I’d like to accomplish in this arena. You might say I’m driven to provide services to the ASD population because I’ve lived with autism all my life. No, I do not have autism, nor do I have a child with autism; however, my mother has Asperger’s Syndrome. We only found this out in 2005, right after my sister passed away from cancer. My mom had an emotional breakdown and sought help, which ultimately lead to her diagnosis. It was difficult being the child of a mother on the spectrum. My mother always had (and still has) an intense need to control and organize her environment to keep from feeling overwhelmed. There was a designated place for everything – the milk carton’s home was on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, the butter had its place on the top shelf, the dishes had to be washed in a certain way – these endless rules and rituals helped her maintain her equilibrium. If we broke her pattern, she had tantrums. Her sensitivities to certain smells, fabrics and foods also resulted in unexpected outbursts. Social situations were fraught with acute anxiety for my mother. School events like graduations would overwhelm her and she refused to attend. It would have made such a difference to know that she was dealing with sensory challenges that had nothing to do with her character or her capacity for love. I know it was difficult for my siblings and I, but I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to navigate childhood, let alone adulthood.

    My experiences growing up have given me a unique perspective on families with loved ones on the spectrum – I understand how isolating it can be to have a family member with social and sensory issues. The spectrum is broad and, as they say, “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” However, I believe there are certain universal experiences that families with children on the spectrum share – a fear that their child won’t be accepted, that she/he will be ignored and patronized or, even worse, bullied for being different. There is also a deep and abiding desire to participate in normal activities (going to the library or going to the playground) without it being an exhausting or demoralizing outing. Libraries are in a unique position to speak to this need and to advocate for inclusion and acceptance for these families. Many see libraries as safe centers for academic and social learning for children; there is no reason for children on the spectrum to be excluded from this.

    My goals for attending the forums are fourfold: (a) to acquire additional knowledge and begin to formulate a list of ‘best practices’ for designing programs for children with special needs; (b) to foster collaborations with other librarians who share my passion for special needs programming; (c) to share with others what I have learned from my mistakes and my successes in this area; and (d) to brainstorm about the ways in which we can encourage and support librarians and library staff who are intimidated by offering programs to persons with special needs, be they youth or adults.

    Liked by 1 person

    Marie Plug, Youth Services Specialist, Pasadena Central Library said:
    March 20, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Thank you, thank you for a marvelous experience in Springfield! Attending the Targeting Autism National Forum was life changing for me; listening to the speakers and hearing the attendees talk about their experiences, fears, challenges and commitment has made me even more determined to continue on this path of advocacy and community engagement.

    The California Library Association will be holding their annual conference in November of this year and I’ve been asked to submit a proposal for a poster presentation. With your permission, I would like to highlight my library work with persons on the autism spectrum in light of the State of Illinois’ initiative to create a model of inclusivity that libraries throughout the nation can follow. I also want to ask if you’d be willing to provide some input for the poster presentation or, in lieu of that, if you would be amenable to my sharing the knowledge I gained at the Forum. I will give proper credit to the State of Illinois for any knowledge I impart that was gleaned from the Forum. I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m being too bold, but I always say that it never hurts to ask. The worst that can happen is that you kindly decline. 

    I’d like to thank you personally for all of the work and dedication you have given (and are continuing to give) to the autism community. The work you are accomplishing is vitally important.

    I look forward to hearing from you very soon!

    Warmest regards,

    Liked by 1 person

      Suzanne Schriar responded:
      March 20, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      I would be most happy to share/provide input for your poster presentation. I would like to help in any way I can. Illinois is a beginning. I think national momentum would be empowering! Let me know what assistance I can provide.

      I am thrilled that you are able to be a part of this work!!


    Anonymous said:
    March 19, 2015 at 11:03 am

    “Targeting Autism” is a forum I am enthusiastic to attend. I feel that libraries have a lot to offer individuals with developmental disorders (including autism) and their families. In an age of expensive therapies, libraries are a free source of information and they offer the potential for learning social skills through their programming.

    My goals in participating in these forums are these: to gain skills in educating my library staff on ASD awareness, to help improve access to quality ASD information, and to learn about ways to grow inter-organizational partnerships in this area. I hope to share my experiences here in Saskatchewan as a public librarian who includes people with autism and other developmental disorders and add my voice to your plan.

    My experiences with autism began three years ago, both personally and professionally, when I moved to Moose Jaw to be a children’s librarian at the start of summer reading club in 2012. During that first summer, I remember that there were some children who hung back from playing physically active games, which left me puzzled. I also first heard about sensory processing issues from a parent whose son would become overstimulated and need to leave the room for a break. Throughout that summer, I started to build a rapport with these students.

    I noticed how one boy loved organizing my alphabet magnets. How another loved his red cap and sensory activities. I noted how often the charitable organization, Saskatchewan Association for Community Living’s (SACL) autism group: Moxie Club, used the library throughout that summer. I felt I really got to know some of the kids.

    At the end of my first summer, I was diagnosed with a high functioning autism spectrum disorder myself, a fact that I do not share widely. This has motivated me to want to learn all I can about autism and make my library an accessible place. It has motivated me to learn and read the writings of major autism scholars, like Temple Grandin, Tony Attwood and Stephen Shore. I attended the Geneva conference in 2014 and purchased two webcasts for my staff to watch on sensory storytimes and on programming for children and tweens with autism.

    Since 2012, my involvement with people with autism and other disabilities has expanded. I began to work more with the Moxie Club, as they request programs for their students. In 2013 and 2014, I offered programs for their teen students who are more severely affected by autism. I have also offered programs for their 6 to 10 year old students, and I include them in public programs too. I try my best to include everyone’s special interest in my programs, and to offer visual scheduling. Library programs are promoted to all SACL participants, including students with autism.

    Since moving to Moose Jaw, I have developed friendships with families on the autism spectrum. I have also become a life skills and community involvement mentor for SACL, and I work with and individual with both physical and cognitive abilities. I fully intend to bring back what I learn to my library and to SACL, because I know I have a lot of areas in which to grow and learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    Trinity Services/Autism and Family Resource Center – Denise Wirth, LCPC, Therapist said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:53 am

    I currently work as a therapist at the Autism and Family Resource Center. My position includes promoting awareness for individuals impacted by ASD. I also have a background in both the public library and school library systems, so I understand how
    library services can collaborate with the various agencies, schools, and libraries to create a greater awareness for ASD.

    Personally, as a mother and grandmother of children who have been diagnosed with both speech and language, and sensory issues, I understand some of the struggles and joys that come with raising children who communicate in their own special way.
    I would love to be part of a stakeholder forum to form inter-organizational partnerships to enhance statewide support for
    children and parents.

    My goal for participating would be to work with others to discuss the ways we can both promote awareness and make the best use of all available resources. I would be honored to join the Autism Stakeholder Forum.

    Liked by 1 person

      amw22014 said:
      June 14, 2015 at 8:04 am

      What are your thoughts on allowing autism service dogs in libraries and pet therapy events?


    TAP – The Autism Program of Illinois – Mary Pelich, Network Coordinator said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I am interested in attending the Targeting Autism forums because I believe that public libraries have a significant role in the communities for which they exist. Now that one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism, it is likely that many of the library patrons served have autism. Staff should be trained in how to best work with people affected by ASD. However, the reality is that the public library system has the potential to be a place for not only gathering information and resources on autism, but also for holding workshops and community forums, presenting trainings and for being a place that brings the community together around topics of relevancy.

    During my eight year tenure at Lincoln Land Community College, I had the opportunity to work with many students who self reported that they had an autism diagnosis. I assisted them with career exploration, creating professional employment documents, and networking and interviewing strategies. I was also a part of the A-Team, an informal group of faculty and staff who met regularly to discuss how to best serve our students with ASD. In addition, I attended several trainings on Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome that were conducted through the Special Needs office at the college.

    Before working at the college, I was a teacher assistant in the public school system in Springfield, Illinois where I provided one-on-one mentoring for children with ASD and engaged students in learning, employing effective teaching strategies.

    I am now employed as Network Coordinator for The Autism Program of Illinois. In this capacity, I work closely with our seventeen agencies that operate nineteen centers across the state providing diagnosis, treatment and support for children with an ASD. I hope to use my enthusiasm and passion to foster working relationships with educators, healthcare providers, and community members to facilitate communication, support and continuum of care for Illinois children and their families.

    As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I know first-hand of the struggles that parents face in getting their child the right treatment, care and school accommodations so that they can realize their full potential. I hope to use my talents for the greater good of the community and the state through participation in the Targeting Autism Forums.


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