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Last week we had a staff training on autism awareness. I organized this LEU opportunity which focused on addressing the needs of our teen and adult population who have autism. This idea came out of a few incidents last summer of staff frustration over a few patrons who expressed behavior problems and had difficulties conforming to the library setting and us as staff people feeling less than confident in our ability to serve these patrons in the best ways possible.

The objectives for the class were:

  1. Define Autism and  Autism Spectrum Disorder
  2. Name Common Characteristics in Autism Spectrum Disorder
  3. Identify Challenges in Supporting Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder within the Library Setting
  4. Understand the “Individual’s With Disabilities Act” (IDEA), and how it might apply to the Library
  5. Develop and Begin to Implement Positive Behavior Support Strategies specific to the Library Setting
  6. Locate Reputable Resources on Autism Spectrum Disorder

I was lucky enough to be able to call on an expert with eighteen years in the field of Autism who conducts training for educational institutions, group homes, and nurses all over the state of Indiana who is also an adjunct faculty member of the IU School of Nursing and Ivy Tech. She also happens to be my mother. Kathy Auberry did an excellent job of connecting the strengths of our library with the need that exists to support all members of our community – even if some of them need different communication techniques and special space considerations to operate at their full potential.

The surveys were great to read. Most people became more aware of autism. They learned specific communication techniques focusing on positive phrasing and keeping a calm demeanor. Skills, I might add, that are valued in any library interaction when dealing with the public on a daily basis.

I am happy that I was able to get the conversation rolling about this important topic. We as a library can either be known as a place of welcome to all or be labeled as difficult to work with. I want to work at a place that keeps its doors wide open and will at least make an effort to help people gain skills and enrichment – even if they need a different kind of help than others.

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