Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Project PALS module 2, ‘Arranging the Library Environment’

“Arranging the Library Environment,” Module 2 in the Project PALS online course, “Serving Library Users on the Autism Spectrum,” invites library professionals to critically evaluate the environment and the structure of activities in the library to consider the effect they might have upon autistic patrons.

Among identified objectives, people completing this module will be able to make recommendations for potential improvements to areas or activities in the library to better meet the needs of people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to construct visual supports to encourage communication and independence in the library of ASD patrons and develop environmental alternatives to increase participation of people with ASD.

Downloadable templates can be completed to track progress and identify action areas in an individual library.

One of the positives I most appreciated when I completed the first module was carried over in this second module. ASD is treated as a lifetime spectrum disorder, and course content addresses how to meet the needs of both children and adults on the spectrum.

Module Two highlights include the first-hand perspective of Emily Lawrence, a librarian on the autism spectrum. She describes the effect of one library environment as it aggravated her difficulties with sensory integration, spatial confusion and social anxiety.

Thankfully, the negative that I flagged when completing the first module does not manifest here. In the second module there are no grating references to the fundraising group Autism Speaks, and especially no further recommendations that libraries “Light it up blue.”

(Far from being an “advocacy organization” as the first module suggested, Autism Speaks is a main contributor to controversy and divisiveness in the autism community. In the words of John Elder Robison when he resigned from its Science and Treatment Boards, “Autism Speaks is the only major medical or mental health nonprofit whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a large percentage of the people affected by the condition they target.”)

This course makes the case for universal design for learning (UDL), which “operates under the assumption that all individuals, not just those with special needs, will benefit from carefully planned, accessible places and spaces.” A library that is more “user-friendly” for patrons with autism will possibly be more user-friendly for everyone.

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