Surprise! The first meeting of SNAILS was even bigger and better than we had envisioned! Approximately 35 attendees represented 30 libraries, and the crowd was abuzz with excitement about the new group and it's purpose.
After enjoying a beautiful spread of breakfast foods and much needed coffee along with a selection of small goodies (e.g. National Association for Downs Syndrome bookmarks, lists of recommended books for Sensory Storytime and teen programs, and Signing Time demo DVDs), we started off with a lively discussion about public libraries’ role in serving children with special needs. Some interesting comments that came out of the conversation were:
- The special needs community can be viewed as one piece of each town's diversity pie. Reach out to them just as you would to other groups.
- We have to be responsive to community need, and that need changes all the time.
- Parents of children with developmental differences need support and time to network with other parents who face similar challenges.
- We can act as advocates without having to be experts.
- Volunteers can help get you started - especially retired special education teachers.
- Partnering with special needs agencies helps make services available to families and builds community.
- If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
- Regardless of the success of programs, reaching out breaks barriers and builds libraries’ reputations.
After our conversation, we went around the room introducing ourselves and sharing about the outreach services at our libraries. What a wealth of experience people brought to the table! It was so encouraging to learn that most of the libraries are already offering specialized services and programs to families with special needs. We are sure to learn a lot from each other. For a summary of what was shared, please view our Member Libraries page.
Arlington Heights Memorial Library took the floor to share about the amazing, library-wide Autism Awareness Month she coordinated last April. Through Lindsay's efforts, AHML hosted the eye-catching Stories of Autism exhibit which features portraits and stories of children and young adults with Autism. All library staff were encouraged to wear Autism Awareness bracelets and stickers. Over the course of the month, the library offered four programs for kids: a "Busy Brains Children’s Museum" which featured nine science stations hosted by the Library's Teen Advisory Board; a book discussion of Rules by Cynthia Lord; "Rainbow (Animal Assisted Therapy ) Time;" and a "Special Needs Apps for iPads" technology petting zoo. Adults and teens were invited to attend the "Human Library: Exploring Autism" panel presentation, a book discussion of House Rules by Jodi Picoult, and a presentation by local high school personnel entitled "Debunking Teen Autism Myths."
Lindsay finished her SNAILS presentation with an overview of the library's inclusive "Kids' Playgroup" which is a drop-in program held three times per week out on the Kids World floor. She usually sets up five open play stations which are all based on the Alliance for Childhood's 12 Key Types of Play. For more information about Kids' Playgroup, look for Lindsay's upcoming blog post.
The next meeting of SNAILS will be on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 9:30am. We'll be meeting at Skokie Public Library for a morning discussion, guest speaker, and sharing time with the option of a group lunch and an afternoon viewing of ALA's online class, Library Service for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Hope to see you there!