In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to shed a little light on autism, the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. My interest stemmed from my mother having me read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” which really opened my eyes about autism. If someone you know has autism, one might say they’re “on the autism spectrum.” That would mean they have been diagnosed with one of a series of disorders that can involve impairments in communication, social interaction and sensory processing, as well as a display of repetitive behaviors. And to further complicate, symptoms can vary in severity. One might say, “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.”
The latest statistics put out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify 1 in 88 American children as being on the autism spectrum. As knowledge and awareness continue to grow, so does our understanding about some of the causal factors that are attributed to autism, such as genetics and environment. Early intervention is critical to helping children with autism lead productive lives. Public libraries have only recently seen a rise in library storytime programs for children with autism, commonly called sensory programming because of the skills being addressed. Here are a few blog entries I really like with sample library programming ideas for children with autism and other developmental disorders:
Programming for Children with Special Needs ALSC Blog, by Tricia Twarogowski. This blog series provides a neat in-depth look into the “Rhythm and Rhyme” storytime at the Matthews Branch of the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County and a link to some resourceful videos created as a result of the library’s partnership with the local Autism Society chapter.
Steal this Storytime: Spectrum Edition from Library Voice Blog, by Kiera Parrott. This descriptive blog entry covers a five-week sensory storytime program plan in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month and includes great ideas for weekly cumulative sensory activities focused on creating works of art.
Sensory Storytime: A (brief) How-to Guide ALSC Blog Entry, by Ashley Waring. This blog entry provides a concise look into the sensory storytime programming essentials with a nice array of pictures describing some of the program activities.
So, if you’re excited about someday providing this type of specialized library programming, as I am, I think these articles will give you a wealth of information for getting a program started at your library or school.