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

    STAR NET Region IV (Belleville) – Sheri Kraus, Family Resource Specialist said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:51 am

    I am interested in attending the Targeting Autism forums because I believe in this project and I am really happy to see something like this is being developed. It’s been a long time coming.

    ASD affects my life personally and professionally. When my son, Joe, was diagnosed with ASD in 1999, one of the first places I went to for resources was our Public Library. We live in a rural community so I wasn’t too surprised to find out that there were no resources on ASD on the library shelves at that time. When I went to our neighboring community which has a population of approximately 50,000 people, I was surprised to find out the Public Library had no resources on ASD. Not only was I surprised, I was extremely disappointed. It left me with the internet, which my son’s doctor, warned me about. As a parent just told that her child has autism, of course I was extremely hungry for information and had a thirst for knowledge to know how we could help him and what lied ahead for Joe and our family. Although I wanted to make a change in the Public Library System, my first priority was getting help for my son. Like many parents after receiving their child’s diagnosis, there is so much to do and learn. My son’s many therapy appointments, along with caring for his two siblings kept me so busy there wasn’t much time left in my day to focus on the Libraries.

    STAR NET was one resource I could count on to learn about ASD. I attended every workshop I could pertaining to ASD through STAR NET. The Family Resource Specialist was a lifesaver to me. The STAR NET Library was a wealth of information to me. Ten years after Joe received his diagnosis the Family Resource Specialist at STAR NET retired and I was offered her job. I have worked with STAR NET and with families affected by autism for the past six years. I help maintain the library by ordering resources that would be beneficial to family members and educators. Our library consists of resources such as books, DVD’s and Assessment Kits on a wide arrange of disabilities. We have quite a large section on ASD.

    Besides working for STAR NET, I also serve on the PTOEC (Parent Teacher Organization for Exceptional Children) Board. This is our local chapter of Special Olympics. We provide monthly dances for the high school and young adults with special needs, an annual dinner banquet, and a two week camp for the individuals who are still in school. It’s a great way for the kids to socialize and for the parent’s to network with one another. Of course we have many sports that the individuals can join through Special Olympics.

    One of the goals that I would have for participating in this project is to not only make sure libraries have information on ASD but to talk with them about bringing in presenters in their area that could share information with families, such as STAR NET (and many programs and agencies that come to mind) so that families are able to learn about and access other resources in their area.

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    Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital – Nalini Mahajan, Medical Library Director and Webmaster said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I am currently employed by Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, Wheaten, IL as the library director and Webmaster and for the last 29 years have worked with physicians, clinicians, and parents of children with developmental disabilities.

    Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, located in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, is a 120-bed facility dedicated to physical medicine and rehabilitation. Nationally recognized for exceptional treatment and positive outcomes, Marianjoy offers a continuum of rehabilitative services for patients of all ages. The hospital’s family-centered approach provides emotional, psychological and behavioral support and solutions for families. Marianjoy’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Program provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative care to children, from birth to 18 years of age, who have physical and/or learning challenges due to illness, injury or congenital defects. These include autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy (CP), Down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Parents invariably seek information that will prepare them for the first phase of their child’s care. However, parents can be easily frustrated and overwhelmed by the large volume of information available, especially on the Internet.

    In 2009, and again in 2010 Marianjoy Medical Library received funding from the National Library of Medicine to: 1. Conduct a needs assessment to have a better understanding of the health information needs of the parents of children with developmental disabilities and 2. Develop Information Connections, a Web site for parents of children with developmental disabilities with a special focus on autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD, Down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury.

    Information Connections was launched in April 2011. It is a collaborative effort led by the Marianjoy Medical Library Director and Webmaster, Dr. Mary Keen, Director of the Marianjoy Pediatric Program, with input from the parents of children affected by developmental disabilities. Information Connections seeks to simplify access to the most relevant health resources while alleviating the problems of “information overload,” duplication, and currency. The Website can be accessed by anyone, from anywhere and anytime at the “point of care” and the point of need.

    I am interested in attending the Targeting Autism forums as these forums will provide an excellent opportunity to collaborate and network with a diverse group of stakeholders and work with organizations serving the ASD community. My main objective is to raise awareness about autism, provide support and information for families to make informed decisions.

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    The Answer Inc. Autism Awareness & Support Agency – Debra Vines, Executive Director said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I am the founder/executive director of The Answer Inc. Autism Awareness & Support Agency. I have a 27 year old son that is impacted by Autism. We recently opened an Autism Resource Center at the Broadview Public Library. Our goal is to open Centers in all of Proviso Township Libraries and the entire Chicagoland area.
    It is my personal passion to empower, encourage and educate not just families impacted by Autism but the entire community. Below is an overview of some of the accomplishments of our agency.

    The Answer Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, was established in 2007 by Debra Vines in order to focus attention on Autism awareness. Our primary goal is to provide support, resources, education, recreation, and advocacy for the challenges that Autism presents to a great number of families and caregivers in the community. Our services are also available to families who face challenges of other disabilities.

    Our long-term vision is to establish a community center that will provide respite services, support group areas, recreation, sports training, assessments and workshops for Autistic children and their families. We implement the following core programs and events to raise awareness about Autism: Outreach events; Seminars at local schools, law enforcement agencies and churches to promote inclusion and awareness; Monthly meetings with community members; 24-hour hotline for families/friends of autistic individuals in need of support and/or advice; Exercise, nutrition & dance program; Bullying intervention program; Just for men fathers group; Wellness Program Saturday University.

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    RAIL/SWAN Consortium – MaryLou Coffman (retired), SWAN Special Projects Coordinator said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Education is the key to acceptance for anyone on the Spectrum. I have spent the last 17 years “explaining” why my son does what he does; why he says what he says; why he is NOT a spoiled brat; how he learns best; how intelligent he is and why his sensory needs impact his learning.
    How exciting it would be to work toward the goal of acceptance and understanding for everyone on the Spectrum.

    I was instrumental in starting an Autism program for our high school that I am happy to say is growing each year and working hard to provide a smooth transition for kids on the Spectrum from grade school to high school.

    I am currently working with my school district to identify the training needs for Special Ed teachers, Gen Ed teachers, and parents of special needs kids. Our goal is to unite these three groups as a “real team” working toward a respectful sharing of information that will benefit everyone, especially our kids. My personal goal is to help parents recognize that they are the best source of information for their child and to trust their instincts when it comes to what is best for their kids. Too often parents are intimidated by staff that are not necessarily knowledgeable with regard to the Spectrum diagnosis.

    In the end, the goal is to introduce the world to a population of people that they probably already know from their own families. To understand what it is to be “on the Spectrum” is key to acceptance of everyone with this diagnosis and to open doors for them to sail through!

    My son has always been my inspiration and when I think of what it takes for him to just get through the day – everyday – I’m in awe of him and if I can help to educate just one person about Autism, I will have succeeded.

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    RAILS – Natalie DeJohghe, E-book Trainer/Coordinator said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Libraries of all types are vital community institutions. One of the most challenging hurdles that libraries face is finding the best way to serve the many different portions of the population. The first step to being able to effectively serve a population is to have an understanding of those populations and their particular needs. The Targeting Autism forums will allow me to improve my knowledge of this community throughout Illinois. This will in turn allow me to help create resources for participating eRead Illinois libraries to better serve the ASD community through their individual libraries. Additionally, as a member of the Resource Sharing team for Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS), I can pass my new knowledge on to my colleagues to help us provide resources to our libraries throughout Illinois.

    My primary experience with the ASD population was from my previous career as a high school teacher in North Carolina. I taught a few autistic students during my five years of teaching. I was fortunate that these students had very involved and proactive parents who provided me with approaches that they knew would work well for their children. This made it very easy for me to modify assignments and information delivery to best serve those students. In the library community, however, we will often not necessarily be able to have such a wealth of information readily available nor will we be focusing our services and programs on a single individual.

    My goals for participating in this program are to improve my knowledge of the ASD community, to develop relationships with other participants so that we can continue to share information and ideas after the forum, and to gain a better understanding of how to better work with other advocates in the ASD community to provide stronger services. Developing and implementing services for this community is not something one can tackle as an individual. Working with other participants throughout the state will provide the creation of better services and the opportunity to serve the ASD community throughout Illinois and not just in my own area.

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    Illinois State Library - Kathryn Dauksza, Literacy Program Manager said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:41 am

    I am interested in attending the Targeting Autism forums because many of the low literate adults served by the literacy grants offered from the Illinois State Library suffer from learning disabilities. Our grantees discuss adult learning disabilities with us regularly during monitoring visits. It will benefit our grantees and the low literate population (adults and families) served to have a better understanding of how autism affects learning at any age.

    On a personal level I know many families affected by autism. I have witnessed the difficulty many families face trying to obtain the proper educational support for their children once diagnosed with autism. I have attended local school board meetings where frustrated parents advocate for their children affected by autism. I also know an attorney whose specialty is assisting families of children with disabilities. I will share his information with Suzanne.

    One goal for attending the conference is to learn how ISL Literacy can enhance information disbursement on this topic to assist the families we serve. Another goal is to provide more detailed technical assistance to our grantees.

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    Western Illinois University Libraries – Dr. Michael Lorenzen, Dean of University Libraries said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I have a 16 year-old son who is on the spectrum. He was diagnosed at age 4. I have learned a lot about ASD since then, including by working with local school systems on IEPs for my son. This has resulted in me being active with other students and their parents in community activities including volunteering to assist with Special Olympics and the Proud Equestrian program through 4H. As my son prepares for his coming college years, I am interested in ways college libraries may be able to assist him and others like him.

    I am the Dean of University Libraries at Western Illinois University. As a result of my family circumstances, I have long been interested in access to higher education issues related to the ASD community. I conducted a talk on this issue at an academic conference in 2010. I am committed to diversity and I believe this includes making university and college libraries more welcoming to patrons on the spectrum.

    My goal from this project would be to come up with a plan for better helping this community in library access. I would want to focus my institution’s plan to WIU but I would connect it with other library efforts in the state. Talking with a variety of stakeholders would be very helpful in doing this.

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    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Katharine Pionke, Applied Health Sciences Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I would like to participate in the Targeting Autism forums because of my position as the Applied Health Sciences Librarian at UIUC which includes disability services for patrons of the library. While the focus in the library has largely been on assisting patrons with physical disabilities, I believe that we need to reach out to all disabled patrons including those with autism and mental health issues. Disability services, physical and mental, which includes spectrum disorders, is the focus of my research agenda. Attending these forums would allow me to make connections with others in my field who have an interest in reaching out to this population as well as helping me generate ideas to bring back to my own library for integration into our workflow. While I don’t have autism, as an adjunct professor for 10 years, I have often worked with autistic students that are all over the range from not noticeable at all and requiring no accommodation to those requiring a great deal of accommodation. I have also dated a slightly autistic man and interacted with his autistic son.

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    Lincoln Land Community College Library – Mary DiMaggio, Library Access Services Specialist said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:39 am

    My four year old son was diagnosed with autism at age 3, and has been receiving therapy services since he was 18 months old. I have been very involved in his treatment ever since, and have met with many therapists, teachers, and autism families. I am an active member of the ASD community in my area. As both a special needs mom and a librarian, I have had a great opportunity to think about how libraries can better serve this population. Each child/adult with autism brings their own unique behaviors and issues; therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that libraries can take. I hope that be attending the forums, I can brainstorm with other professionals, bring ideas back to my library, and bring my own experiences to the table, with the ultimate goal of making libraries more accessible and welcoming to children like my son.

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    Lincoln Land Community College Library – Linda Chriswell, Accessibility Services Professional said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:38 am

    I have been employed with LLCC as a disability support person for a number of years. In one year our population of students on the Autism Spectrum increased from 3 to 35 in two semesters. All of our LLCC students receiving academic accommodations have done extremely well at LLCC, but we need to raise awareness and take the ASD population into consideration in every aspect of our learning environment.

    I have spearheaded professional training for our police personnel; started an A-Team lead by students to discuss challenges, barriers, strengths, and accomplishments. It is an open forum that has fluid participation. I also have collaborated with the Autism Project of Illinois on various campus activities or events. I have had representatives from ITAP even visit my education classes.

    My goal is to raise awareness of what ASD is and address how to meet their needs. So this project is of great interest to me and I would like to contribute my experience.

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    Lincoln Land Community College Library – Amanda Wiesenhofer, Electronic Resources and Library Systems Administrator said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:36 am

    I am interested in participating in the Targeting Autism forums in order to learn more about what the Library at Lincoln Land Community College can do to better serve the ASD population. Our library operates according to a student-centered philosophy, and makes every effort to anticipate and meet the diverse student needs that can be found in a community college setting. It is our goal to support all students in their academic endeavors at LLCC as well as to foster life-long learning. In recent years, the ASD population at LLCC has been steadily increasing. I worked directly with the public as the Access Services Specialist for nine years; in this capacity I served and assisted students with ASD. I believe that there are ways that we can better serve the ASD population here. I have discussed attending this forum with my colleague, Linda Chriswell, who is employed as the Accessibility Services Professional. She works closely with all of the ASD students, and is highly knowledgeable about their specific needs and effective methods of addressing those needs. We hope to attend the ASD forum together and collaborate in an effort to assess and then improve Library services for this population of students. I also hope to serve as an advocate for this student population within the library. Using what I learn in the forums, I plan to educate my library colleagues about reaching out to these students and serving them in more effective ways.

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    United Township High School Library, East Moline – Beth Tepen, Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I would like to learn more about the ASD population, and what libraries have done and can do to reach these individuals. I feel that our school library is a place that welcomes everyone and embraces students who a little bit different. Our school has a couple of programs that I think may appeal to individuals on the spectrum, and I’d like to work more closely with our robotics team, support the development of an engineering curriculum and make the library more of a tinker/maker space.

    United Township has 1700 students in grades 9-12, and we have 15 students with either an IEP or a 504 who have an autism or Asperger’s diagnosis. Students are in a variety of levels of classes, and we have a cooperative with Blackhawk Education district for students with profound disability, so the library supports and sees all these groups. The library is a space where students can spend some of their free time talking, using technology and catching up on assignments. We strive to be welcoming and respectful, expect students to reciprocate, and help to foster a level of trust between teenagers and libraries in general. We serve as a bridge to the local public library, which is important for the low-income population we serve.

    From a personal standpoint, my oldest nephew, an autistic second grader with limited speech, has overcome discouragement and despondency after a tough school year. I am hopeful that with a one-on-one classroom aide, better communication between the classroom teacher and his parents, and a strong relationship with his special education teacher that he can make it through to middle school and beyond.

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    Lincoln School District – Libby Letterly, Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:34 am

    About two weeks ago I shared a news article on Facebook with friends about a man with autism who had been repeatedly tasered after police misunderstood his panic and attempts to run away. I added a personal post saying, “This is my biggest fear for Mark,” our adult son, who like the man in the news article, is big and, like the man in the article, probably would panic and run. A friend messaged me asking if I was aware that I could register Mark with our local police department, so they would have information about him that included possible behaviors to expect and our contact information. No, I didn’t, but I do now and have shared this information with others.

    Like most librarians, I believe in serendipity. It is a library word meaning delightful, accidental discoveries. Like that friend’s response to my post, the email I received this morning from Ellen Poppit asking if I was interested in submitting my application for the Targeting Autism forums was serendipitous, delightful. I am honored to be asked.

    For the first 21 years of a child with disabilities’ life, there are opportunities for both the child and the family to tap into a wealth of resources designed to ensure there is a possibility of designing an educational environment that is “least-restrictive.” This access pretty much stops at age 22. The complexities that face persons with autism in the adult community and their families are enormous: housing, employment opportunities, Social Security disability income, aging parents and their concerns for their child’s life after they are gone. Our society has moved from a mentality that promoted warehousing to a community-based environment but, for many, without the needed supports. The public library could serve as an access point for the needed resources.

    Our son Mark has Williams Syndrome, a rare condition that is often described as “like autism but opposite.” Like persons with autism, Mark and others with WS persevere and obsess and have difficulty understanding societal boundaries and customs, including appropriate personal space. Unlike most persons with autistic behaviors, persons with Williams approach everyone and invite conversation, albeit one-sided most of the time. I have been Mark’s mother for almost 40 years and an advocate for almost that long. The most powerful lesson I have learned is that the world is mostly good, especially the more that the world includes those with differences.

    My goals would be to listen and learn, to advocate especially from an aging parent perspective — what can we provide through public library resources to assist both the person with autism and that person’s family to ensure access to resources?

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    Gemini Junior High School/East Maine School/District #63 – Kirstin Buican, Library Media Specialist said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:32 am

    For the past 11 years, I have served as the library media specialist at Gemini Junior High School. Over those years, I have seen many changes in our school, including changes in our student population. In the past, a local organization, MTSEP (Maine Township Special Education Program) has been available to assist us in servicing our high needs students, including those on the autism spectrum. With the closing of this program, we are now welcoming more students with special needs into our school.

    The goals of my library are, of course, to promote literacy for all students. To do this, I have regular classroom visits and run library literacy programs. Some of our students are emergent readers. Learning to match materials, strategies and programs will be the key to lifelong literacy for everyone. Since I have less experience working with autistic students, I feel that my current programs and strategies are not reaching all of our students. Because the spectrum of how the students function is so widely varied in our school, I must ensure that I am reaching all of our students. My hope is that I will gain the knowledge that I need to support our students with autism as well as other special needs students more effectively. My experience will also be shared with the entire staff of my building to benefit teachers in the classroom.

    In addition to learning how to best serve our students, I have a personal reason for wanting to learn more. One of my closest friends has a son that has autism. His is of the same approximate age of the students that I teach. I feel I can more easily see the perspective of the parent and how important it is to ensure the highest quality education and service. I truly want to be the best teacher that I can for all of my students and I believe the Targeting Autism forums will be the key to achieving success.

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    Garden Hills Elementary School – Ata Bird, Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I have been intimately involved with autism my whole life. I grew up the younger sibling of someone severely affected by autism and was identified as being on the spectrum myself when I was 18. As an adult, much of my vocational experience has been related to autism. I spent three years facilitating a support group for young adults on the autism spectrum for a local chapter of GRASP, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership. I have been in a leadership position with my local Champaign Urbana Autism Network where I am now the assistant coordinator. Professionally, I worked in Applied Behavior Analysis, after taking 15 graduate credit hours in Applied Behavior Analysis, for a few years, concentrating on serving clients with autism and I expect to take national boards in the field in early 2015. I am halfway towards completing my special education endorsement in order to help me better differentiate instruction for my students. Furthermore, I have spoken on the subject of disabilities and autism in front of a variety of audiences.

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    Forest Park School District 91 – Jessica Witt, Special Education Teaching Assistant said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:13 am

    I am extremely interested in attending this program because it is the mission of my career to improve educational services for all children who learn differently, specifically those on the spectrum, in public school libraries. I recently graduated from Dominican University’s GSLIS and currently work as a special education teaching assistant in the Forest Park, IL school district (IL District 91). I have received multiple trainings because of this position including training with Giant Steps Autism Organization and “Structured Teach Task Training” relating to teaching strategies for young students with ASD.

    In my last semester at Dominican I took the initiative, with the guidance of Sujin Huggins, to create an independent study researching and planning library services for children with special needs. During that time I developed a sensory storytime for the Forest Park Public Library that I intend to continue improving in the coming year. I also began working on Project Power Card: a high-interest based supplemental reading program to increase motivation and confidence of struggling readers and ease social interaction that may impede access for library users on the spectrum. Project Power Card is based on research of literacy teaching techniques for students with ASD. I am in the beginning phases of implementing this program at Betsy Ross Elementary School and hope to continue as one-on-one tutoring or an alternative summer reading program at libraries in the area.

    I have worked in special education since August 2013, and the experience has changed my life. It has given me personal purpose and honed my career goals. Advocating for this population, specifically in terms of library services, is the most important goal of my career. The children with autism that I have worked with touched my life in a special way. One student in particular, who is non-verbal, inspired me to advocate for the importance of literacy to improve the quality of life as well as achieve educational success. I maintain a close relationship with her and her family although she is no longer my student, and her drive and happiness continue to inspire and motivate me.

    I would be honored to participate in a forum dedicated to achieving such a worthy goal as improving services for this population. It would be a wonderful experience to learn and share within an initiative so closely aligned with a cause I am passionate about and then to take what I learn back to my community in order to improve services for a population I care for deeply.

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    Wood River Public Library – Ashley Bryant, Youth Services Manager said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:12 am

    As Youth Services Manager and a part of the circulation staff at Wood River Public Library, I have seen firsthand the importance of building ASD support that spans over a lifetime: I have watched students with autism struggle with their surroundings at various library events, and I have seen autistic adults work to communicate their needs to library staff. I have also seen how library programming can benefit those with special needs. Wood River Public Library extends monthly programming to the William M. BeDell Achievement and Resource Center. Although these students have a wide range of abilities, many of them experience sensory processing dysfunctions and comorbidity with a variety of disorders.

    While I do not have any personal relationships that have been impacted by autism, I have experience with ASD individuals at the library, through substitute teaching at three local school districts, and by completing post-graduate coursework in education that frequently focused on inclusion and accommodations in public schools for students on the ASD spectrum.

    A few of my goals in attending this forum are to better understand the needs of the growing ASD population in my community, to gain knowledge to develop ASD inclusive programming and community support, and to improve programs at William M. BeDell ARC. Although I see ASD students on a regular basis, I am not aware of ASD support outside of the school districts, so learning about resources already in place is another goal. ASD affects the community as a whole, and because the library partners with different organizations within our community- such as the Park District- our involvement in this forum would expand to benefit other organizations and the community. Wood River’s Park District has made an effort to partner with ASD organizations, but was not fully supported by these programs. It is my hope that we can work together to meet their goals- as well as ours- in offering ASD programming. Furthermore, I would like to learn how the library can better accommodate the tutors that use our facility to work with ASD students.

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    Warrenville Public Library – Diana Abraham, Youth Services Assistant said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:10 am

    I would like to participate in the Targeting Autism forums because I believe any child, regardless of ability, has the right to enjoy a community outing such as going to their local library. I have done various programs targeting children on the Spectrum and their families for the Warrenville Public Library District. I have presented sensory storytimes, movie afternoons and created displays with books and other supporting materials during Autism Awareness Month. I also attend the S.N.A.I.L.S meetings where we discuss innovative programming for library patrons on the Spectrum. This topic is a passion of mine not only because I enjoy working with differently-abled children but because I am a mother of an enchanting little boy, Matthew, who happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.

    My son’s favorite place in the whole world besides grandma’s house is the library. He loves his school library and he loves our local Warrenville Public Library. As a parent I take him on various community outings and feel his behavior falls within socially acceptable norms. However, Matthew is so excited about coming to the public library that his stimming behaviors are very loud and distracting. No matter how much we prepare him for his visit, his love of books and DVDs are a very exciting part of our visit which triggers very difficult behavior. As a mother, I don’t want his conduct to disrupt any others from enjoying the library. As an employee, I want to help parents who feel they can not enjoy the library due to their children’s behavior and mannerisms.

    I have a unique view on library services geared toward children who have Autism. I believe there is a two-fold need when reaching out to families who have children with disabilities. In my experience, some parents want to be part of inclusive programming for their kids and there are other parents who would like programming efforts to be modified. I believe it can work both ways. Being with typical peers is a great opportunity to have good role modeling of typical social behavior. While being with typical peers is a great experience, some of the kids who have Autism may not be ready for the noise level, the visual stimuli or the expectation of sitting through a program. Therefore, a modified program could target lower lighting, reduced noise/sensory stimuli and a shorter program time.

    My goals are to enable families to feel comfortable visiting the library and for their ASD children to have a positive learning experience within their community. To meet these goals, I believe it’s critical to educate staff, identify support services and community resources, highlight our Library collection on ASD topics and collaborate with school teams. Participating in this project would enable me to be more educated about these key areas to better serve the ASD population at our Library.

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    Vespasian Warner Public Library District – Joan Rhodes, Director said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:09 am

    I want to attend the Targeting Autism forum because I have a personal relationship with autism. My youngest son is 26 years old and is mentally handicapped and autistic. When he was diagnosed there was very little known about autism and it was a lonely place to try and navigate as a parent. While great strides have been made there is much that needs to be done to educate the public about autism and to get information to caregivers. As a library director I am in a position to disseminate relevant information about autism.

    Additionally my eldest son is a Special Education teacher in the school district that our library located. I hear his frustration about what needs to be done to assist the educators, parents and students about understanding and meeting the needs of the growing autistic community.

    One goal I have is for others to understand some of the characteristics of autism. My youngest son used to have meltdowns in
    P.E., Music and lunch. One characteristic of autism is that loud noises (e.g., motorcycle going by, vacuum cleaner) and bright lights may cause inconsolable crying in infants and tantrums in older children. When he was finally able to articulate to us he said these classes “made my head too spin fast”. The solution was simple. He was given a quiet place he go when his surroundings were too loud to cope with. When we take him out in public he has headphones available. I would have loved to have known about the sensitivity to sound and knowing how easily I could help my son cope with it. This is just one example of the information would affect the everyday lives of caregivers and person with autism.

    I would also like to convey the strengths of the autistic personality. A characteristic of autism are unusually intense or focused interests. One well known example is Temple Grandin and her work in animal behavior. My personal example is that my son learned to read. Since my son is focused on movies, he was able to memorize the dialogue and teach himself to read by turning on the closed captioning. He has an IQ of 45-50 but reads a fourth grade level, a remarkable feat. This reading level allows him to be able to microwave cook, a step toward independence. It demonstrates how one can take a characteristic of autism and turn it into a strength.

    I want to participate in the forum so I can learn more and help others who are facing the challenges that my son and my family have.

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    Spoon River Library District – Gayle Strode Blodgett, Library Director said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Our library serves the Cuba school district. There are 338 students in the Pre-K through eighth grade. Fifty-eight percent of our students are low income and 17 percent of the students have IEPs. This past summer we had just over 100 children in our summer reading program and we are averaging about 60 students for our monthly activities. Of the students attending our programs about 8% are identified on the autism spectrum.

    We welcome all children to our programs and would like more children with ASD to attend our events. We need help making sure our activities and crafts are well-suited for them to participate and we need to create programming specifically for these children and work with the school district to communicate our programming to parents. With so many low income families in our community we need to provide services to families that can’t get them other places.

    In addition, we would like to host and prepare informational programs for our community. We want to be a place where others come to get accurate, helpful information and this is an area where there is a great need. I think participation in this program will help open doors and create networking opportunities to assist us with this goal.

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    Skokie Public Library – Holly Jin, Community Engagement Librarian- Youth Accessibility Coordinator said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:07 am

    My outreach to library patrons with special needs began in 2004 with the writing and managing of an Illinois LSTA grant entitled, “Come On In: the Library is a Special Place for Children with Disabilities.” Prior to receiving the grant, Skokie Public Library staff felt a barrier that prevented us from confidently serving children with autism. We didn’t understand their preferences, sensitivities or behaviors. We couldn’t communicate with them easily. Worse, I think we viewed the kids as a group of special education students instead of looking at them as individuals. Thankfully, “Come On In” gave us the opportunity to learn about autism and other disabilities so that we could better serve what was then an overlooked population. We developed new programs, collections, and technology offerings. Most importantly, we realized the value of staff training, community partnerships, and building personal relationships with families. Our efforts were recognized with the ASCLA Keystone/National Organization on Disability Award. Since that time, I have coordinated the Library’s special needs services to children, made presentations at state and national library conferences, and received ILA’s Alexander J. Skrzypek Award.

    While I don’t have personal relationships with people on the autism spectrum, I am closely acquainted with a number of children and teens with ASD who participate in our special needs and inclusive library programs. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know these precious kids and their families, and they’ve helped me serve them better. I also have the privilege of working with an adult volunteer on the spectrum. I’m thankful for the unique perspective he brings to our program, especially when he’s assisting a child with ASD. And, of course, there are my colleagues who have sons and grandsons on the spectrum. They’ve helped me realize the impact that an ASD diagnosis has on a whole family and how important it is to support each member.

    I would like to participate in the Targeting Autism Forums so that I can share what I’ve learned with others and learn even more in the process. The thought of a statewide tool excites me. As a co-founder of the Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services (SNAILS) networking group, I enjoy equipping librarians around the Chicagoland area to serve ALL children. There is no question that libraries are stronger when we come together. It would be an honor to be a part of a bigger impact for Illinois libraries.

    My goals for this project are to actively participate with the knowledge I have while tapping into others expertise – even those organizations that may not be part of the forums. I’d also like to explore how developing an action plan for patrons with ASD could equally help libraries serve patrons with other disabilities.

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    Schaumburg Public Library – Kate Niehoff, Popular Services Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:06 am

    During the ten years that I have been working in Adult Services departments in public libraries, I have had a chance to get to know many patrons with autism. Parents and caregivers have always seen public libraries as safe havens, and our patrons with autism have always felt comfortable spending time in our buildings. Youth Services departments have made great strides in recent years with providing programs and services for children on the spectrum, and while many libraries provide meeting room space for special interest groups, adult patrons with autism remain an under-served demographic in most our communities.

    In October 2013, I helped to launch the Schaumburg Township District Library’s NextGen series of programs, aimed at 20- and 30-somethings. At each program we typically encountered at least one adult with autism, and occasionally up to a quarter of participants fell on the spectrum. We also received numerous phone calls from parents of adults with autism, hoping to register their children for NextGen events. The message was usually the same: there aren’t many organized events for adults with higher-functioning forms of autism, and the library seems like a safe place for them to be.

    When deciding whether or not we could better serve this community with a more targeted series of programs, many factors went into consideration, such as whether or not these needs were being met elsewhere in the community, whether this demographic’s needs could be met with existing programming, and how best to serve a small portion of the ASD population without alienating the majority of those that fall elsewhere on the spectrum. One parent of an adult son with autism in the Schaumburg Community was instrumental in helping us come to the decision to form the new series of programs. It was through her that we were able to form relationships with a number of local organizations that serve this demographic, including the school district, community college, a hospital’s autism resource center, special recreation association, and various other non-profits and individuals. One of these organizations has become an official sponsor of the program series, two have provided library-staff training, and each of them has contributed the expertise of its staff to assist the library in developing the program series. In December 2014, the Schaumburg Township District Library held its first program for Adults Facing Social Challenges, targeted towards adults with autism or Asperger’s, and others facing social challenges, who do not need to be accompanied by a parent or aide.

    During these first stages of program development, I have been lucky to meet a number of passionate advocates of services for adults with autism. It has been through them that I’ve learned of the staggering statistics: the prevalence of ASD has risen by almost 50% in the past ten years, and after students graduate high school or turn 21, funding significantly decreases for adults with autism. According to the Social Security Administration, only 6% of adults with autism work full-time. Meeting these adults with autism and their parents, both of whom are worried about life moving forward, has instilled in me a new motivation to serve them in the public library.

    My goal for participating in the Targeting Autism project is to not only discover new types of services and programs that the Schaumburg Township District Library can offer to its own ASD population, but to encourage other libraries to expand their programs and services to include adults as well as children. Having been through the planning stages of a new series of programs for adults with autism, I hope to contribute to a conversation that will eventually lead all libraries to better serve this disadvantaged demographic.

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    Round Lake Area Public Library – Kathy Oetker, Trustee said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:04 am

    The Round Lake Area Library is aware of the challenges autism presents, but we do not have a mechanism for providing services useful to individuals with autism. The library hopes to improve our understanding of this disorder and, in turn, provide support to those affected by autism. We hope the information gained by attending the Targeting Autism: A National Forum on Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum forum will guide us in developing a broader set of services to those with Autism Spectrum Disorders in our community.

    The library has minimal direct experience with autism other than what comes from interactions we have with students brought to us from the school district for library instruction or the occasional patron who visits the library. Beyond that, the most professional level experience we have with autism comes from Library Trustee Kathy Oetker, who is currently a Training Specialist for the transportation company Cook Illinois Corporation, where she is currently the Special Needs Transportation Specialist. Ms. Oetker oversees the corporate training in proper use of special needs equipment. She trains in special needs including autism and was part of the team that wrote the autism curriculum. Oetker also serves as the company’s Special Needs Liaison to the school districts they serve. She attended the Autism Society Conference last summer. Oetker’s previous employment includes work as a Camp and Program Director with the Warren Special Recreation Association. She started a recreation program for children with autism, including an all-day summer camp program. Ms. Oetker also presented the following seminars to school districts and transportation leaders: Present on Autism and Student Transportation; Special Needs 101 for Student Transporters; Disabilities Awareness/Sensitivity Training; and Student Management. Ms. Oetker has also been personally affected by ASD. Her grandson has ASD and associated severe behaviors. She has provided respite/sitting for children with ASD. Part of the activities she coordinates for these children include library use and other community integration activities. Her children enjoy checking out movies and picture books.

    The Round Lake Area School District’s Coordinator of Special Education and Principal of the Early Education [preschool] Center, Phyllis Lubel, reports having 65 students “who are receiving special education services under the eligibility category of autism. In addition, we have several younger students who are receiving special education services under the category of Developmental Delay who will probably be diagnosed with autism before the age of 10.” We are also engaged with the high school, but not to the degree we feel we could be, and we do not have a relationship with any autistic adults that we are aware of. There are many high functioning ASD people for whom the library could provide resources. We have a relationship with the park district but have not been involved with their Special Recreation program.

    We have a good set of “raw” resources, a well-established relationship with our school district, a number of area support agencies, and a lot of “great ideas,” but we have no viable plan for combining these into an effective resource. For example, we need to refine number of options available to us, including: -partnering with area stakeholders to coordinate information dissemination, -hosting support agency meetings, -providing training space for autism support groups, -conducting an assessments of our community’s needs, -developing an autism collection, -providing age appropriate activities for teens and adults; -providing guidance to adults looking for employment, and -educating parents about the resources the library provides. As a Library trustee, Ms. Oetker has the responsibility to oversee the budget. She will be an asset to the Board regarding potential services. She will be able to shepherd the programs through the Board, including making suggestions regard the money needed to add the programs.

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    Rochester Public Library – Janet McAllister, Director said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:03 am

    I am very excited about this grant and would love to attend the forums. I am very proud that my library provides volunteer opportunities for students with special needs. I have a strong partnership with our local school districts Secondary Transition Experience Program (STEP). We had a wonderful young man with autism that volunteered 3 hours every school day for 2 years. With the supervision of his aid, he was able to empty our outside book drop and check the books in. He has graduated and gone onto the Hope School where he will continue to learn life skills. I would add that we miss him dearly. He is a lucky young man who has a wonderful family that will make sure he has the best care. We were lucky to have another young man who was able to volunteer this past summer. He was also autistic, but did not require an aide and was able to drive. I don’t believe most people know how wide the autism spectrum is. We also have a young woman who has Down’s Syndrome who volunteers one night a week. I am happy to give these students a place where they feel they belong and have a purpose. We just started working with another autistic young man who volunteers with the help of his aide. I wish our school district had enough aids so that every student had the ability to volunteer and become part of our library family. The library is the perfect place for these young people to feel safe and needed. I want to participate in this forum to find out how I can better serve this population of our community. I also want to share what my library is currently doing and how other libraries can follow our lead.

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    Peoria Public Library – Elise Hearn, Branch Manager said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Peoria Public Library is interested in participating in Targeting Autism: A National Forum on Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum. The mission of the Peoria Public Library is to provide all residents books, other printed materials, new technologies, and programs that stimulate personal intellectual growth and development, and provide a satisfying experience that nurtures a love of reading and the joy of discovery.

    While Peoria Public Library’s five locations and bookmobile serve the diverse population of the 115,007 residents of Peoria, one demographic that needs additional attention is people with special needs. Peoria Public Library is an inclusive space for all individuals and will benefit from working with others throughout Illinois to identify direct ways to serve people with special needs and specifically people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

    In any community, the public library is a natural place to go for services. I have had many encounters at my library with people with autism. Many times I am helping parents research books about autism when they first learn of their child’s diagnosis or I am quietly being told of their diagnosis before the child enters a library program. There is also the population of adults with special needs that use the library that require extra assistance finding materials or using the computer. While it is difficult to say if they have autism or another disability I believe that skills learned in how to help patrons with autism could be used to help people with many other disabilities.

    Personally I have a friend with autism who feels as though she does not fit in the world around her. A library can offer sanctuary for a person who feels socially out of place, as many people with autism do. A library should be staffed with people who can recognize that everyone is on a spectrum of special needs and to meet a patron where they fall on that spectrum. One goal of this project is to find and acquire training materials for Peoria Public Library staff so they can better understand and serve people with autism and other disabilities. Everyone should be able to enter Peoria Public Library and feel comfortable in their surroundings.

    I have spoken with many parents of children with autism and other developmental and cognitive disabilities that desire specific special needs programming. All of our programming at Peoria Public Library is inclusive and we welcome people of all abilities but parents sometimes feel that their child will be a distraction to the other children in a program. Participating in this project will help us fulfill our mission to offer materials, services, and programs to all Peoria residents including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their caregivers.

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    Park Ridge Public Library – Anastasia Greenwald, Children’s Services Librarian & School Services Coordinator said:
    March 19, 2015 at 9:00 am

    As a member of the SNAILS (Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services) networking group, I have a deep interest in learning to serve the ASD population at my library. While the group does a great job of sharing information about various special needs programs and services offered at the participating libraries, I would love the opportunity to expand my knowledge and learn and share more information with participants throughout Illinois. Additionally, I feel that I and my library would benefit immensely from the opportunity to work with ASD specialists and stakeholders at the Targeting Autism Forums. We have hosted Sensory Storytimes, but have not been able to sustain interest in these types of programs. I know that there is a need in our community for more inclusive programming and library services, and would love the opportunity to work with and hear from others in similar situations to gain insights and inspiration to better meet those needs.

    On a more personal note, my family has been impacted by ASD in a variety of ways. I have a 16 year old nephew who was diagnosed with Aspberger Syndrome several years ago. His mother, though kind and loving, has not always known how best to advocate for him and find the resources to serve him to the fullest. I also have another nephew with Sensory Processing Disorders whom I have seen thrive with continued support and intervention. Having seen firsthand how effective the right methods and how detrimental a lack of intervention can be, I feel very passionate about being able to serve the ASD community at my library to the fullest. In an effort to achieve better service to the ASD population, my manager Kelly Durov and I have already formed a partnership with Have Dreams, a local organization serving the ASD population in the area. We have talked about some of the ways that we might work together to provide services to those with ASD at our library including parent programs, social stories about visiting the library, and storytimes. Mrs. Durov and I both hope to attend the forums in Springfield with the hope that we will be able to develop these ideas further, share what we have learned over the years, and be inspired to create more meaningful programming and a more accessible location at our library.

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    Park Ridge Public Library – Kelly Durov, Children’s Services Manager said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:59 am

    My passion for working with children and learning started with a desire to work with children on the Autism Spectrum. My major in college was Speech Language Pathology and my senior thesis was on the effectiveness of communication boards for non-verbal children with autism. I worked as a camp counselor for Ray Graham Special Recreation in my summers off from college and liked it so much, I became a special recreation assistant after finishing college. My experience working in special recreation lead me to the realization that while I loved working with people with special needs, I did not want to do that in a therapeutic setting. I wanted to be more involved in a recreational setting. I also knew that I wanted to work with early childhood and literacy and so the public library seemed a natural fit.

    I have been thrilled in my 10 years as a children’s librarian to continue to be able to work with patrons who have special needs. Since my start as a Youth Services Assistant to my current role as a Children’s Services Manager, I have championed having teens with special needs volunteer at the Library. Working with local high schools, most recently Maine East High School, I have coordinated teen volunteers coming to the Library to work on projects like craft preparation and shelving library materials. Under my leadership, Park Ridge Public Library developed a sensory storytime for children ages 3 to 6 years old. We also visit two special needs programs monthly and present storytime programs. I feel the Library is a safe and welcoming environment for people with autism and am thrilled for the opportunity to expand our services further that this grant offers.

    The Park Ridge Public Library plans to partner with our local non-profit autism service provider, Have Dreams, to expand our services to people with autism. The School Services Librarian at my Library, Anastasia Greenwald and myself have met with Amy Funk, Chief Development Officer at Have Dreams, to talk about what tools and services we could develop with the help of this training and grant funding. Ideas include creating a Library social story specific to the Park Ridge Public Library to share with patrons with autism before they come to the Library to help them navigate the facility and services, developing a parent program on reading to a child with autism, and creating spaces in the Library for people with autism to take a break from the bustling public areas if they become overwhelmed by the multitudes of sensory stimulation. I hope to be a part of the Targeting Autism Grant to continue to expand public library services in Illinois to people with autism and solidify the public library as an accessible and responsive environment for people with autism.

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    Northbrook Public Library – Andrea Johnson, Youth Services Manager said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:58 am

    At Northbrook Public Library, we have worked hard to position the Library as a place of welcome for individuals and families affected by ASD and other disabilities. Through specialized programs and services, special collections, community partnerships, and staff training, we continually seek ways to improve our services to people with ASD, to communicate better with families affected by ASD, and to improve understanding, acceptance, and support of those affected by ASD among the greater population. The Library offers a unique Autism and Special Needs collection, a cooperative book discussion pairing children with special needs with their typically developing peers, an art class for children with special needs, a support group for parents, and more.

    I have worked directly and indirectly with a number of young people and adults with ASD. Some have been attendees at storytime or other programs. Some are regular customers at our Youth Services desk. Once in a while, we have an opportunity to make a deeper connection, such as with a longtime volunteer who has helped to clean books, straighten the department, and pull materials from the shelves on a biweekly basis for almost 4 years. Just this week, I had the tremendous pleasure of serving as an employment reference for this young woman.

    Though I have made services to patrons with disabilities a priority for several years with the help of colleagues and community partners more knowledgeable than I, I can’t help feeling that my colleagues and I need to know more about working with this underserved population. All too often, I find that my conversations with parents of a child with autism still contain the statement, “Oh, we don’t go to the library. We don’t do well in quiet places.” I need to know how we can better reach these families and carry the message that the Library can be part of the solution – not part of the problem.

    As a parent and an active member of my own community, I know that some of my children’s peers, as well as the children of my friends and neighbors, are affected by ASD. It is my hope that as these children grow up, they will feel welcomed by and take advantage of their community’s public library and other community organizations.

    My goals in participating in Targeting Autism are to improve staff awareness of and compassion for patrons affected by ASD, to build a stronger relationship and clearer paths of communication with the ASD population in our community, to strengthen existing community partnerships and begin new ones, and to foster a greater community-wide awareness of and compassion for those affected by ASD. I would like to position the Library as an advocate and community leader on providing a warm welcome and accessible services to those affected by ASD.

    I would very much like to be included in the Targeting Autism forums, for the opportunity to partner with library colleagues and community stakeholders to seek new strategies for these shared goals.

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    Normal Public Library – John Fischer, Manager of Adult Services and Circulation said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:56 am

    My interest in attending the Targeting Autism forums presented by the Illinois State Library stems from a personal and professional desire to learn more about ASD and to serve my library’s community, including the ASD population. I have only brief experience working with the ASD population including working directly with a library volunteer who has been identified with ASD. The experience has been extremely rewarding for me, for our volunteer and his family, and for our library (including many staff). This experience is also the only personal relationship that I have had with an individual impacted by ASD.

    My goals are simple and match the requirements of participation:
    1. I seek to become more knowledgeable about ASD in this community (and in general) and share what I have learned at the September forum.
    2. I desire to build ongoing partnerships with ASD stakeholders in my community and
    3. Incorporate the knowledge gained at the forums in my organization’s plan for improving support services for all those impacted by ASD in my community.

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    Mount Prospect Public Library – Claire Bartlett, Youth Outreach Coordinator said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:55 am

    I am interested in attending the Targeting Autism forum because I believe that libraries have an important role to play in our community, and that parrt of that role is providing service for all members of that community. People with disabilities, including those on the Autism Spectrum, face many limitations in their lives, but they deserve the same opportunities and resources as everyone else. I do not believe that most libraries intentionally exclude these populations, instead, they may feel unwelcome because of previous negative experiences, because programs and services do not meet their needs, or because they are not aware of what is available. 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 borth the public library and school library systems, so I understand how libraries 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 would love to be a 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 otehrs 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.

    In my current position, my focus is on trying to reach children and families who are underserved by the library, and reaching out to them to demonstrate what resources we do have available to them. When their needs and interests are not being met by the library, I work to address those needs. I have seen a need for more targeted services for people with disabilities, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Along with others in the Youth Department, I am in the process of working to provide better services to patrons with ASD and other disabiltiies, but I would love the opportunity to learn more and connect with others to continue to improve upon these services. My library does participate in an area group that brings together library staff working in this area, called Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services (SNAILS). This has been a very benficial experience, but I believe that the environment and dedicated time present at a forum such as this o ne would only strengthen our understanding of the population, and our ability to serve them.

    Before working in libraries, I worked for many years with people of all ages with disabillties. My first job, and one that I continued to do from my sophomore year of high school through the end of college was as a camp counselor at a day camp for children with disabilties. Many of the children that I worked with were on the Autism Spectrum, which gives me some insight into working with them, as well as a passion to help them. I also worked with adul,ts with ASD after college, and strive to apply my background as I work with people with a variety of abilities in the Library. I believe that the knowledge from this background will be beneficial to the forums as I can bring a different perspective influenced by working with this population both as a library professional and otherwise.

    I recently went to day-long conference on diversity in books and library services, and left feeling so inspired and ready to enact change to improve services to the many diverse populations we serve, including those with disabilties. Each attendee had something different to contribute and together, we educated one another and provided a collective body of information that I believe will help each person who attended, but also the library, literary, and education fields to be more inclusive. I believe the Targeting Autism forum will similarly produce collective resources and knowledtge that are much greater than that of their individual participants, and help libraries all over the country to accommodate everyone in our community. It would be a privilege to be a part of this forum, but most of all, I look forward to seeing what our industry can do with the information developed during the process.

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    Mokena Public Library - Nancy Baker, Technical Services/Head of Circulation said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:52 am

    During my 18 years of service at the Mokena Community Public Library in our rapidly expanding communit, my goal has always been to work alongside staff members to make our library a unique and valuable resource for education and edification. Autism is often a misunderstood human condition that can sadly be met with public avoidance and derision. Particularly in a school environment, these reactions can lead to hamful intrinsic and extrinsic words and deeds (including bullying) toward an autisitic child.

    Education and empathy are at least two of the valuable aids that our library can offer to our adults and young people in helping them understand and respect autisitic individuals.

    Learning how to obtains and present age-appropriate print and video materials tot eh public through the Targeting Autism forums would be of great benefit to our Library’s abilitiy to impart interest and knowledge.

    Ideally, the Targeting Autism forums would also provide information regarding potential establishment of locally-run forums, potentials speakers and reviews of benefits related to such local resources as Autism Speaks in DesPlaines.

    As for my own qualifications regarding dissemination of the program locally, I am a college graduate with experience as a parochial school teacher as well as 14 years of employment at Trintiy Services in Joliet, Illinois, where I worked closely with a diversity of mentally and physically challenged adults.

    Today, recognition of autism has increased due to better diagnostic techniques. However, there is still much to accomplish in terms of educating the public in autism awareness and appropriate human response.

    This effort will start locally in Mokena by information our own staff members about ways to identify and assis autistic adults/children and their families. Our local school system (directly adjacent to the Library) is a “community partner” that can provide resource and support to our public effort. Trinity Services may also be a support and information resource.

    In essence, the Mokena Community Public Library stands ready to augment information provided by the Targeting Autism Forums toward the understanding and compassion needed to make the lives of autisitic adults and children better.

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    Helen Plum Memorial Library – Catherine Loveday – Youth Services Librarian Associate said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I would be honored to participate in the Illinois Targeting Autism forums. The opportunity to start a conversation and create a network of resources for the ASD Community with the goal to open library services for this population is something I am very passionate about.

    With my background and volunteer experience in Early Childhood Special Education I have been able to meet and form relationships with many children on the Autism Spectrum. I found my work and interactions with this group to be both equally rewarding and fascinating. When I decided to continue my education and earn my MLIS at Dominican University (I graduate in May 2015), continuing to serve this population was very important to me. For the past four years I have worked with SASED (the School Association for Special Education in DuPage) to host special storytimes for students in their Early Childhood Multi-Needs programs, many of whom have a diagnosis of Autism.

    More recently at my library we have created Sensory Solution Bags that have circulating sensory materials and created a special collection of Autism related resources in our Parent Teacher collection. We are currently planning on offering our first community-wide Sensory Storytime in April and are looking forward to hopefully bringing more families into the library and creating a new set a library users.

    If chosen to be a part of the Targeting Autism forums my goals would be to create partnerships with many of the wonderful organizations that support Autism Awareness around the state to both strengthen the services we already provide and create a more inclusive environment to people impacted by ASD. Though my focus is on Youth Services I also want to help create a plan that moves beyond Sensory Storytimes, so library services throughout the state can grow to meet the needs of these patrons as they mature.

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    Galesburg Public Library – Melinda Jones-Rhoades, Young Adult/Reference Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:49 am

    The Galesburg Public Library is a municipal library serving the 31,745 residents of Galesburg. Our mission is to serve the community as a general center of information and to provide opportunity and encouragement for individuals to use our services and materials to meet their educational, personal, professional, recreational and cultural needs. The library also shares its resources with residents in surrounding rural communities and provides assistance and leadership to the smaller public libraries in the area.

    As the Young Adult/Reference Librarian at Galesburg Public Library, I am involved in providing services and support for patrons of all ages. I personally have no experience working with the ASD population, which is precisely why I am in interested in attending the Targeting Autism forums. At last year’s Illinois Library Association conference, I attended a session entitled “Kickstart Special Needs Programming for Kids.” The session was inspiring, and I walked away realizing how few initiatives my library has enacted to welcome our community members with special needs and their families. I initiated a partnership with Knox Warren Special Education District, our county’s provider of educational services for children with disabilities requiring specialized instruction, in order to garner information about the specific needs and challenges of special needs families in our community. Through this partnership, I have learned that there are very few organized support services in the greater Galesburg area specifically geared towards the ASD community.

    My chief goal in attending the Targeting Autism forums is to gather ideas for ways that Galesburg Public Library can effectively serve the ASD community in Galesburg. The 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 affected by ASD who may not be able to afford to purchase these materials on their own. In recent years, Galesburg (and Knox county, in which it resides) has struggled with population loss and job migration. According to current US Census estimates, Knox County has a 16% poverty rate, significantly higher than the state wide average of 13.7% or the US national rate of 14.9%. For many of our library patrons in the ASD community who are living in poverty, access to up-to-date print and audio-visual resources on topics like building social skills, therapeutic and medical interventions, and other relevant topics is very limited, if available at all.Galesburg Public Library would like to build an up-to-date collection of resources to meet this need; my hope is that participating in the Targeting Autism forum would allow me to learn about the best and most frequently requested materials from other librarians and professionals serving the ASD community. I also hope to share ideas and learn best practices for utilizing our facility as a gathering spot, offering both “formal” programs such as sensory-friendly movies and informal programs like open houses and support groups for families in the ASD community.

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to apply to attend these forums.

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    Galesburg Public Library – Karen Marple, Children’s Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:48 am

    We are interested in developing a resource center for autism for our community. Since our Bright Futures Resource Center lost funding, there is not nearly enough information readily available for families.
    We have several families with autistic children that use the library and I would like to feel more informed about autism so that I could better answer their needs..

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    Gail Borden Public Library – Erin Dolan, Reference Librarian, Accessibility said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:47 am

    SpecialistI first heard the word “Autism” when I was about 8 years old, when my younger brother received his diagnosis. This is also when I learned about Interlibrary Loan. It was the early 1980’s, and my mother had to request materials about Autism, because our local library had none. Today, I am pleased by the increased awareness and resources available for families affected by ASD, but I feel more can be done.

    I would like to be involved in the Targeting Autism forums because I believe multiple agencies working together can make a difference. Libraries are in a position to reach many members of the public, but our staff members aren’t always trained to address everyone’s needs. Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum need to be able to easily find and utilize appropriate resources. Families and individuals impacted by ASD need to feel welcome in the library and other public places. By working with, and learning from, other organizations, libraries can better serve our customers with Autism.

    As I mentioned above, my brother has autism. He is nonverbal, and lives in a group home. His behavior can be disruptive, and frequently makes other people uneasy. Growing up, we often felt unwelcome in public places. Our family is fortunate to have access to services for him; I know many families do not. Before I became a librarian, I worked as a Case Manager and QMRP in a program serving adults with developmental disabilities, some of whom had Autism. I have seen both ends of the “Spectrum,” and I know that people need quite a variety of services and supports. We tried to help our clients learn how to interact with the community, but sometimes the community needs to learn to accept people who are different.

    Gail Borden Public Library places a strong emphasis on partnerships. As the library’s designated “point person” for issues related to disabilities, I have the opportunity to develop relationships with agencies serving people on the Autism Spectrum. By working together, we can better serve the members of our community who are affected by Autism. Gail Borden is a trusted member of the community, and a place where, we hope, all people feel comfortable. We currently offer a Storytime for children with sensory issues. I work primarily with adults and would like to expand our offerings for individuals of all ages who are on the Autism Spectrum.

    By participating in this project, I hope to share what I know and learn from others in order to improve library services to people impacted by ASD. I hope to help improve access to services so that people don’t “slip through the cracks.” I hope families of individuals with ASD will feel more comfortable visiting the library. Ultimately, I hope the project will result in more people with Autism engaging with the public, because I believe that will help the public to be more welcoming to those who have Autism.

    Like

    Fountaindale Public Library – Nancy Lupo, Children’s Services Associate said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Having a child with a disability can be challenging. There are times when you wonder if anyone out there understands what you are going through. I am a librarian at the Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook. I would like to enhance autism awareness in my community and surrounding communities. I believe by attending this autism forum it will help me do just that. I would like to create more programming for all patrons of our library and the many others in our area. Currently, I am the Sensory Storytime librarian and I have created a monthly program for children to attend a storytime whatever their needs may be. I have a 23 year-old daughter with mental disabilities and autism tendancies. She attends a day program for adults with various disabilities and autism is just one of many this population of adults live with on a daily basis. I love these people as they truly are innocent to the vast population around them. My daughter was born with disabilities so this community of people have been my people too. She and I are very active at her day program AID (Association for Individual Development) and also, with FVSRA (Fox Valley Special Recreation Association).

    Since completing my MLIS at the University o f Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I have also become involved in the SNAILS (Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services) organization. This is a network of librarians in the suburbs of Chicago who share ideas and network every other month on special needs programming for our libraries. At our last meeting of the SNAILS organization we had the Lekotek (http://www.lekotek.org/) organization come in and tell us about the group and what they are doing for the many children with disabilities. Lekotek is a “nonprofit organization that provides an array of services to improve the lives of children with special needs through the utilization of toys and play”. I would like Fountaindale Library and their consortium of libraries to become a Lekotek affiliate. Thereby, having the materials to supply more for their special needs communities in the area. Lekotek also offers educational and training seminars for their affiliates. This would truly be an asset as there are not any affiliates out here in the western suburbs.

    Like

    Eureka Public Library District – Joan Herron, Adult and Youth Services Assistant said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:44 am

    According to the Eureka Public Library District mission statement, we exist “to ensure that the residents of the district have the right and means to free and open access to ideas and information that are fundamental…”. This statement is the basis for all the services that the library seeks to provide for all patrons.

    On a personal level, my background includes 34 years of working as a school librarian, interacting with all types of students who had a wide variety of issues and needs. Statistics tell the story of a high percentage (as many as 1 in 68 births, according to the Autism Society) of ASD diagnoses in the American population today. There is a greater understanding of students and adults with special needs, many of whom fall within the autism spectrum. Two of my star Scholastic Bowl team members were valuable team contributors who just happened to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Working with these two individuals, who were as different as night and day, gave me some insight regarding the multiple layers of these diagnoses. I have been working for the past 1 1/2 years in a larger public library, giving me more experience with a general population of adult users representing a variety of neuro -diverse abilities. I can see more clearly how the juvenile population as well as the emerging adult base exhibit every kind of need described in the mental health spectrum. Both the individual and the greater family unit need the support that public libraries can provide by offering resources and developing working partnerships with area community organizations, along with connections to statewide programs.

    By working together, the interested stakeholders can provide as much of a resource and support web as possible. While the statewide resources still need to be explored, we have reached out to our local school district, CUSD 140, and they are willing to share statistics for their 1000+ student population, and will be able to target specific needs for us. The Woodford County Special Education Association is also willing to share basic statistics with the library, as well as strategies and resources currently available. Those two groups would be our primary partners in this project. The resources included with the program application information can be counted as additional partners. We will investigate the possibility of working through the local Parent Teacher Organizations as partners who can collect and disseminate information regarding parent and family concerns.

    Coordinating with these partners, and utilizing the information from the spring and fall forums, Eureka Public Library District plans to:

    1. Acquire a better understanding and working knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
    2. Become familiar with the resources, both personal and organizational, available in our area to assist families and individuals impacted by ASD.
    3. Develop a working relationship with libraries and other organizations around the state partnering to implement a statewide network plan to better serve individuals affected by ASD.

    By participating in these forums, Eureka Public Library District will be more able to acknowledge and participate in services that will benefit patrons needing behavioral, environmental, and social considerations.

    Like

    Deerfield Public Library – Paula Shapiro, Youth Services Librarian said:
    March 19, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I am in charge of programming with children with special needs ages 3 to 14 years old. I have planned and executed sensory storytimes for children 3 and up, programs for school age children such as a Lego program and yoga, and “buddy type” programs for children in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I am interested in attending the forums because I want to learn more and learn new ways to help bring more children and families impacted by ASD.

    I have a very dear friend whose daughter, Jamie, is on the spectrum. I have watched her advocate for her daughter every single day and it hasn’t been easy. It takes time and energy and Jamie has finally recived the services she needs at school. Jamie is now 13 and it is tough for her socially. She doesn’t understand the social cues and just wants to ffind a place for her to fit in. I believe that the library can fill the void (and should be) a safe and accepting place for everyone. I have also met with several families in Deerfield who have children with ASD in order to find out what type of programming and services they would like to see in the library. While there were many different responses, the common thread is that they want to be more involved and have their children attend programs at the library. They all had similar passion and were wonderful and fierce advocates for their children.

    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 all the programming we do. It is not enough to offer programs. We need to figure out better and different types of ways that we can addommodate and welcome people with ASD. I believe that the more we learn and the more we collaborate the more we have to offer our patrons.

    Like

    Moose Jaw Public Library, Tina Dolcetti said:
    March 18, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    I cannot wait to.get at the community needs assessment. Have any of you started? What challenges or positives have you encountered?

    Like

    Crystal Lake Public Library – Teresa Smith, Library Technical Assistant said:
    March 18, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I am interested in attending the Targeting Autism forums to be held in March and September 2015 because I am passionate about providing programs for children on the Autism spectrum. I have worked at the Crystal Lake Public Library for the past thirteen years and have had the pleasure of watching many children grow up, including two autistic brothers who have been regular Saturday afternoon customers for many years. In 2013 I began looking into what we could offer to this population at our library. I started attending the networking group, Special Needs and Inclusive Services (SNAILS), where I have learned what other libraries are doing with their programming. I also attended storytimes geared to children with Special Needs at two libraries. I met with Sarah Edwards of Options and Advocacy for McHenry County which is an organization that provides services and support to infants, children and adults with developmental delays and disabilities. Sarah and I have partnered in developing the library’s Special Needs storytime. Sarah also helps me to get the word out about our program. In October 2014 “First Saturday Storytime” began, which is a storytime for children ages 3-8 and their families, where we engage children with special needs through music, stories and hands-on activities. This storytime also serves as a place for families of special needs children to make connections. Over the past four months we have had children with various disabilities attend this story time, including children who are on the spectrum and those with developmental delays, sensory issues, and physical disabilities.

    I have had some personal experience with ASD as well. My son, though never formally diagnosed with Aspergers, has many of the traits of someone with the disability. As a preschooler he attended occupational therapy for sensory issues. In elementary school he was diagnosed with ADHD. He experienced academic and social difficulties while in school. He has since graduated from college, but I feel that he would be better able to find meaningful employment if he did not have the issues associated with his disability.

    I also have a friend who had a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. He was high functioning, but struggled socially. After graduating from college with a degree in engineering he committed suicide at the age of 23. He was overwhelmed with the despair that he would not be able to get a job. Eric’s suicide made me want to get involved in some way to make a positive difference in the lives of families dealing with ASD.

    My goals for participating in this project include seizing this opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders to come up with new approaches in serving the ASD community. I would immerse myself fully into these forums to expand my knowledge and build a network of people who want to make a difference. I would plan to bring back ideas to my library as well as the SNAILS networking group about ways to reach out to older children, teens and adults in the ASD community.

    I hope to be a part of this Illinois State Library grant project, as I recognize the importance of partnering with community organizations to better serve people on the autism spectrum and their families.

    Like

    Chicago Public Library – Lindsay Holbrook, Librarian I said:
    March 18, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I’ve worked in the West Englewood community for ten years and in that time I’ve encountered many children and adults within the autism spectrum. Though challenging at times, it is a rewarding experience to help them. Additionally, I have a nine year old son who was diagnosed at age 5 with ASD. With my experience both personally and professionally with ASD, I have a passion for communicating and giving the best service possible to children and adults with developmental disabilities and the parents who care for them. My goal is to develop special needs programming targeting families, letting kids engage in fun social activities and allowing parents to commingle and decompress. Ideally, by participating in this project, I’d also like to broaden my knowledge of ASD and programs and resources that are currently available.

    Like

    Chenoa Public Library –Sheryl Siebert, Library Director said:
    March 18, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I am interested in the Targeting Autism forums because I would like to create a more autistic friendly library. We have more than one autistic user in our library and we are only six blocks from the local grade school. One of our autistic visitors has learned to enjoy petting one of our therapy reading dogs.

    In addition, I would like to purchase the best materials regarding autism and share them with my community and other libraries.
    My six-year-old granddaughter has Asperger Syndrome, so I am particularly interested in the subject area. I also have an autistic cousin.

    My goals for this project would be to learn more about autism, collect the best resources to share, and to open my heart more to autistic families.

    Like

    Bertolet Memorial Library – Julie Voss, Youth Services Consultant said:
    March 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    I am interested in participating in this project for both person and professional reasons. On the personal side, I am a respite caregiver for my 20-year old niece, Courtney, who was diagnosed with autism when she was a toddler. I have attended seminars and workshops on the needs and challenges of those with autism and I’ve also done a fair amount of personal research on diet, teaching methods and programming for this group. When my niece was younger, I took her to her local library for story hour and she was able to participate to a small degree. One of my sister’s biggest concerns is finding outlets for Courtney that will provide safety and structure, as well as, be interesting to her, especially as she ages out of the educational system. This is a concern shared by many parents of individuals with autism, and the individuals themselves. We also desire that Courtney would have a safe, welcoming place, apart from home and school, to interact with others in the community and where Donna (my sister) could share concerns and victories with other parents and caregivers. The isolation that comes with autism is sometimes the most difficult aspect to handle.

    On the professional side, I have been a youth services librarian for the past 18 years. I am responsible for youth collection development, summer reading programming and weekly story hours. Being a small, rural library, we have not had a lot of participants with developmental challenges, but we have had some, and I believe we would have more if we offered specific programming for them. With the autistic population rapidly increasing, this type of programming will become even more important. In most small and many large communities, the library is a central place for meeting, exchanging ideas and promoting solutions that will benefit people of all ages and abilities.

    My goal for participating in this project is to share what knowledge I have with others who also desire to serve this population and to learn from others what they know. I would like to assist in developing programming that will celebrate the individuals involved and provide them with a sense of belonging to a group in their community. I would also like to be a voice for the ASD
    population in my area in order to raise awareness of this issue especially among civic leaders and organizations. The need for this type of programming is tremendous and I am excited for the opportunity to be part of this collaborative effort.

    Like

    Joleen Batek, Youth Services Assistant, Batavia Public Library said:
    March 18, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Over the past few years, the Youth Services staff at the Batavia Public Library has been making an effort to expand our services to individuals with disabilities, particularly those with ASD. I initially sought the advice of the Early Childhood staff at our local school district. At the time they had a class that went on a community outing each week. We set up monthly library visits and storytimes, which were met with much enthusiasm and success. However, I have offered this same storytime to the community several times and have very limited attendance. Those who have participated have enjoyed their time in the class, but family schedules and the unpredictability of their child’s behavior has kept them from returning on a regular basis. By participating in these forums, I hope to gain insight into how I might promote programs and reach a wider audience.

    While our department continues to brainstorm ideas for programming and inclusion, I have focused my efforts on purchasing materials and resources for check out that address social skills, fine motor development and sensory integration. We have seen a great response with items circulating regularly. I hope to gather ideas from other Youth Services staff as to how we can continue to expand our collection to reach a wide range of patrons.

    There are two members of my family with ASD, one who is high functioning and one who is profoundly affected by his disability. I am eager to gain knowledge of how the library can reach those in the community that would not likely be regular visitors. We have yet to explore how we might expand our outreach services.

    Like

    Narit Raviv said:
    March 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    My name is Nirit Raviv and I am a clinical psychologist. More importantly, I am the mother of Daniel, a young man on the autism spectrum. Daniel has accumulated many achievements and a few successes in his young history (23 years), and also major setbacks and little traumas. One of the unpleasant experiences was being banned (!) from the Northbrook Public library. As an avid reader and a movie enthusiast, Daniel loves the local library and all that it has to offer. Yet, the library has consistently been a place in which he has felt scolded, rejected and humiliated. The problems in the library seemed to stem from the library staff’s misunderstanding of Daniel’s intentions, enthusiasm, personality and disability.

    It takes a village to raise a child with disability. Unfortunately for us, the library was not part of our village.

    Daniel is not the only individual who is misunderstood and rejected at the U.S. libraries. According to the Government Accounting Office Report on Autism, 2011, 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder. Prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births. (CDC, 2014) More than 3.5 million Americans live with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).(Buescher et al., 2014). Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014) Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability.

    I believe that the local and national libraries could and should become a source of community, social and employment opportunities for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. This act will prevent isolation and facilitate inclusion in our communities and society at large.
    According to Dr. Paul Shattuck, Research Program Area Leader in Life Course Outcomes at Drexel University, in the next decade, over 500,000 young people with autism will turn 18 in the U.S. According to Dr. Shattuck, examination of post-secondary experiences for adults with autism reveals a dangerous period of “floundering.” Over half of young adults with autism are completely disconnected from work, job training or any kind of educational opportunity during the first few years following high school. 80 percent of young adults with autism between the ages of 19 and 30 are still living at home with their parents and 90 percent of those are either unemployed or underemployed, regardless of IQ or education level. Overall, only 55 percent of young adults with autism hold paying jobs during their first six years out of high school, with only 35 percent attending college. And then there is the profound social isolation. Young adults with an autism spectrum disorder are more likely to never see friends, never be invited to activities and be socially isolated.

    Like

    tina said:
    March 17, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    Here are some personal stories I have that are small ways in which people can involve people with autism in their programs…

    One student started attending programs that his autism group was involved in at the library. The librarian was informed that his special interests were pop culture and pop music. So, she was inspired to download some top 40 music and borrow his iPod to check out his face playlists… he ended up loving the music! And, later, when he was with his mentor visiting the library, the librarian approached him and recommended a few pop culture books. He loved them so much that he marched out the door with them, and was signed up for a library card later on that day. His teacher even emailed the library to thank them for their intuition, as he had previously not had a real introduction to books.

    Another young adult student recently used the library. He requested to use a Lego kit, and spent HOURS building and rebuilding designs. His statue is now in our front exhibit case for a couple weeks.

    Finally, one of our longest library users is a young man who uses alternate methods of communication. He can now give fist bumps, and can say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to greet people, with a few short words in between. He is shown a physical copy of a library card, but is capable of retrieving his own, and scanning his items. He uses his own special DVD cases to house our materials (we have a shelf to keep his DVDs). He is largely capable of communicating on his own without relying on the help of another person. Our staff treats him with respect.

    Like

    tina said:
    March 17, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    Wow, Elizabeth! That is so totally awesome! What will your PECS system look like? I just learned today how expensive proloquo2go is! I can’t wait to do the community needs assessment. You sound so progressive.

    One of the things I am learning about is there is no shortage to the amenities that could be offered… especially structured social activities. I feel like I am still just incorporating the small things into programming…

    You are right in that sometimes it is the little libraries that can do the most wonderful things. Yes, social stories are great! Last year, we took photos for our local group’s social stories. But I think it would be good to post them on our website.

    I would love to see your photos.

    Like

    Elizabeth said:
    March 17, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    It was a pleasure meeting you and taking part in the Targeting Autism conference. I was honestly shocked at how far behind the state of Illinois is in its level of Autism knowledge. Being said, I would like to tell you a little about my library. My library is what the library considers as “rural”. I have just under 1000 patrons and the community is working class with low literacy levels. This being said, this little rural library seems to be rocking it in the catering to special needs community. I have several sensory activities set up, some specifically for fine motor, others simply for different feeling sensations. I have bean bag chairs and a giant teddy bear and blankets that we call ” the flop pad”. I have intentionally acquired a very intelligent staff, a librarian who used to work at developmental services, a full time special ed teacher who works 8 hours a week here at the library and a current college student. All of my staff are well informed, friendly, and aware of Autism behaviors, community services, and even the IEP process. I would like to send you pictures as I have come back from the conference with even more ideas. My self and my staff have a one month deadline to make our library completely sensory equipped and PECS system in place. We are putting together disability law binders as well as more social stories.

    I’m writing this to shed some light on the Autism in Illinois Libraries topic, and let you know, that some of us are way ahead of the game and there is progress being made and there is a little wonderful library in Cisco, Illinois that is rocking for the Special Needs community!!

    Elizabeth Mackey
    Willow Branch Township Library

    Liked by 1 person

    tina said:
    March 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    When I was a child, libraries were places that offered fun programs and had kind staff who could help me find the best books. I only discovered my autism as an adult. Among many other things, I am now a community life skills mentor and a librarian. I see that there is the potential for libraries to help adults on the spectrum who have graduated from high school by giving them free and valuable information, the chance to socialize, and a safe place to hang out.

    Liked by 1 person

      Anonymous said:
      March 17, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Tina: Thanks for your input and for traveling such a long distance to be at the Forum. Your support is empowering! I look forward to staying connected.

      Liked by 1 person

    Anonymous said:
    March 4, 2015 at 8:50 am

    The library has always been a safe place for me. It was soothing, orderly, and peaceful.

    Like

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