Why not make this April your chance to reach out to the families in your community who are affected by autism? Anything you do can make a positive impact: from offering a program like Sensory Storytime to something more passive like creating a display, booklist, or web post. The important thing is that families with children on the autism spectrum feel welcome and included in the life of the library.
One way to get families with children with all types of disabilities into your library is to offer an informational program for parents and caregivers. Did you know that in every state there is a dedicated Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) that offers information and workshops about disabilities, special education rights, and local resources for families? PTIs are funded by the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.
Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRC), which offer the same types of support as PTIs, but focus on reaching underserved populations (rural, low income, or limited English proficiency). You can use this interactive map to find the PTI or CPRC in your area.
Why reach out to a PTI? They can come to the library and do a workshop on Early Intervention, special education basic rights, the IEP process, or transition services (just to name a few). By offering a parent workshop like this, you can highlight the library as a place where families of children with all types of disabilities, including autism, can come together for learning and support. Once those parents and caregivers are inside the library, you can begin a larger conversation. “How can the library better support you? What types of materials or programs would be most useful for you and your child(ren)?”
While you’re at it, partner with your local Early Intervention office, Special Education department, Special Education Parent Advisory Council, and Arc. These established local organizations can help promote your event, and even be on hand to answer questions, hand out brochures, etc.
Have you offered parent workshops at your library? Did you work with your local PTI or another group? What topics are most useful for parents in your area? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.
Ashley Waring is a Children’s Librarian at the Reading Public Library in Reading, MA and a member of the Liaison with National Organizations Committee.