Saturday, December 6, 2014

Targeting Autism, library service to autistic patrons

From an email subscription to Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services (also known as SNAILS), I learned about a project addressing an issue that’s deeply important to me upon personal and professional levels.

The Illinois State Library has embarked upon a project to “develop strategies to increase the role of all types of libraries to support their patrons and family members who are impacted by [autism spectrum disorder].” The project’s name is Targeting Autism.

Targeting Autism will convene two forums, in March and September 2015.

Eighty participants will be selected from among forum applicants. These will represent what the project describes as “national and regional ASD experts and advocates.”

I want to urge that the project include autistic adults when convening its forum. Our viewpoints are often unrepresented in conversations among “stakeholders.”

I would also urge that the project include all ages when addressing library services.

Mine is the last “invisible generation” that went undiagnosed in childhood. I believe that as prevalent as autism is today, thanks to improved detection, many of these children have invisible-generation counterparts whose issues were undetected or misdiagnosed.

Too often, autism is addressed as if it occurred exclusively in children, and if autistic adults are considered at all, it is from the viewpoint that children on the spectrum will soon age-out of services.

There is little concern given to autistic adults who are already mature, and who may be ineligible for services either because they don’t know they’re on the spectrum or can’t afford to pay for the formal diagnosis that is a prohibitive requirement for services.

I look forward to following developments with the Targeting Autism project and the statewide action plan that will emerge from the forums.

To cite plan objectives, I wholeheartedly support “increased ASD education and training opportunities, streamlined access to ASD information, including local resources, and proliferation of library programming and support services targeted to the large and diverse community of people impacted by ASDs.”

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