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Programmiong for Childrena nd Families dealing with Autism

Queens Library

Innovation Summary

Queens Library is presenting library programs in small groups, designed to appeal to children on the autism spectrum and their siblings

Innovation Leader: Lambert Shell, Director, Programs and Services, lshell@queenslibrary.org

Problem Statement

The number of children affected by disorders on the autism spectrum is growing. Because they are easily upset by noise and new surroundings, their families often avoid public spaces and programs. Parents feel isolated. Siblings suffer. Libraries, which default to quieter, comtemplative surroundings, traditionally do not have adequate programming for them, or expertise in dealing with them. They are few in number, compared to other populations, yet need and deserve the benefits their public libraries can provide. The library is also an excellence space in which to bring families with similar situations together for mutual support as well as education and recreation.

Innovation

Queens Library partnered with the art therapists at the Queens Museum of Art to devise a series of library-based programs that meet the needs of children on the autism spectrum, and in which their siblings can also participate. The programs are held in small groups of no more than six families. The programs are designed to be tolerant of noise and motion. Non-autism participants are welcome, as long as there is room available (rarely). The programs are given at different library branches, to give families in different parts of the county a chance to participate. This winter's offerings include a series of Indian dance workshops, Masala Bhangra. Four sessions led to a choreographed dance sequence. Two other series' of programs were art workshops based on the book "Beautiful Oops!" by Barney Saltzberg. They were comprised of six sessions each. Families explored sensory-based activities led by a teaching artist.

Progress

In total, 16 free program sessions were held for children with autism and their families. They were very popular. Families expressed tremendous appreciation for the extra effort made to accomodate their needs. The families, who often don't feel comfortable coming to the library because their children may act out, felt welcome. Other children in the family had an opportunity to take advantage of the library's resources. The families and their children were given space to bond with other families with shared experiences.