Friday, December 5, 2014

Targeting Autism: A National Forum on Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum

Illinois needs librarians!  Make a difference in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community and participate in Targeting Autism, the Illinois State Library's ground-breaking grant project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Service.

In September of 2014, the Illinois State Library received a $100,000 National Leadership Grant (NLG) award to hold two inter-organizational forums to develop strategies to increase the role of all types of libraries to support their patrons and family members who are impacted by ASD.

Two forums will be held on March 4-5 and September 3-4, 2015 at the University of Illinois in Springfield.  Participants will include roughly 80 individuals who represent libraries, autism organizations, educational institutions and a variety of other stakeholder groups.

This is a wonderful opportunity for librarians across the state to apply to be a part of this process.  There is a limited amount of spaces for forum participants, so don't miss out!  Applications are now available and are due in early 2015. 

For more information and updates about the project, take a look at the Targeting Autism Grant Project Blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

ALSC/Candlewick Press "Light the Way" Grant

Do you have an innovative new program or service that requires funding? Are you looking to serve youth with disabilities in your community more inclusively?  The ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way: Outreach to the Underserved” Grant is a great opportunity for your library!

The Light the Way Grant was formed in honor of Newbery Medalist and Geisel Honoree author Kate DiCamillo. The spirit of the award honors the themes represented in her books.  The award itself consists of a $3,000 grant to assist a library in conducting exemplary outreach to underserved populations through a new program or an expansion of work already being done. Special population children may include those who have learning or physical differences, those who speak English as a second language, those who are in a non-traditional school environment, those who live in foster care settings, those who are in the juvenile justice system, those who live in gay and lesbian families, those who have teen parents, and those who need accommodation service to meet their needs.  So, whether yours is a new idea or one that has already been put into place, your library would be eligible.  The ALSC Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee will select the winner and announce the winner at ALA's 2015 Midwinter Meeting.

Click here for access to this year's current grant application.  If you need ideas, be inspired by the impact and the work of the 2014 ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way” current grant winner.

Don't worry--there is still time to get your application in before the deadline of December 1, 2014.  Good luck!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Author Ron Suskind Event in Wilmette

Wilmette Public Library is hosting Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Ron Suskind. Mr. Suskind and his wife will discuss his latest book, Life, Animated: a Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism, which is a memoir about raising their son and learning to communicate with him through the scripts and songs of Disney movies he new by heart.

Ron Suskind
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 7:00pm
Wilmette Park District's
Community Recreation Center
3000 Glenview Road
Wilmette, IL 60091

The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. Books will be available for purchase from The Bookstall. Signing will take place after the program. For more information, see the event page.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don't miss Handicap This! at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie

Grab your calendar and circle Saturday, November 1 because you do not want to miss Handicap This!

What started out as a friendship between Mike Berkson (who has cerebral palsy) and Tim Wambach (who does not) grew into a partnership and a passion to make minds handicap accessible. Through their comedic theatrical performances, Mike and Tim share the message of inclusion and tolerance, often bringing audiences to laughter and tears.

Handicap This! is playing at North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie on Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 8:00pm. Tickets are $26.00 and $36.00.

If you plan to go, please leave a comment below so I can share the coupons that were dropped off at Skokie Public Library and we can meet up before the show!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Facilitating Play Workshop at November Mtg

The fall meeting of SNAILS will be held on Wednesday, November 12 at Batavia Public Library at 9:30am. We're looking forward to seeing all of our west suburban friends and hoping library staff from the other local suburbs will join us as well. We'll be hearing a short presentation about Lekotek's play therapy services, professional memberships, and library programs; meeting Jo Kaeding, a librarian and PhD candidate from Australia; and learning about Batavia's library services for children with special needs.  Please RSVP to
 After lunch, from 1:00 to 3:00pm, attendees are welcome to stay for a two-hour workshop led by Lekotek play experts.   This two-hour workshop will be offered at $25 per person, if we have a minimum of 22 people in attendance.  If more are interested in attending, the cost will be less. Please email by Friday, October 24 if you are interested in attending.  We'd love to have a great group!

For an overview of the Facilitating Play workshop, see below.

This course will help teach how to connect children of all abilities with benefits of the play experience.  It is geared towards parents, caregivers and professionals, librarians and library staff.  It delivers strategies and tactics to facilitate play with children of all abilities.  Workshop includes handouts, video observations and presentation and hands-on activities.  Attendees will...
  • Bring out a child's true potential through play
  • Learn strategies to play with children
  • Understand how to follow a child's lead and why that is important
  • Expand the play experience while still following the child's lead
  • Facilitate repetition play activity to solidify learning
  • Use verbal and non-verbal cues to provide positive reinforcement

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Board Game and Pizza Night for Tweens of All Abilities

Today's guest blog post was written by Paula Shapiro.  Paula is currently a Youth Services Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library in Deerfield, Illinois.  Thank you, Paula, for making this fantastic contribution to the SNAILS community!

I always have loved working with tweens. I think they are interesting, funny, insightful and often trying to find a way to fit in.  With that said, as most of us can attest, it can be tough to be a tween! There is not a lot of programming out there for tweens with special needs and I believe that this type of programming is important and beneficial to kids of all abilities. With the help of our wonderful teen librarian, Nina Michael, we started to plan our first program: Board Game and Pizza Night For Tweens of All Abilities.   

The vision was to have it be a buddy-type program where we paired up neuro-typical tweens with tweens with special needs.  Here is the  visual schedule (from Boardmaker) that I made for the evening:

How did we get this program off the ground? 
“It takes a village” is what comes to mind. Nina and I went to one of the area middle schools where we met with the social worker, teachers and student council meetings. We passed out flyers, spoke to parents, visited classrooms, and put the information on the district website. We were very lucky to have such a supportive and welcoming district.

Truthfully, I had no idea how many kids were going to show up. When 20 signed up, Nina and I were blown away.  We were thrilled (and a little nervous!).  We did not know which kids had special needs and which were neuro-typical.  I didn’t want the parents to have to fill out a lot of forms/questionnaires.  I wanted this program to be fun for the kids as well as not be a hassle for the parents. They fill out enough forms.

I sent an email to those who had signed up and asked who wanted to be a buddy and who was in need of a buddy. I also asked if anyone needed any type of accommodations.  From these emails, I learned that some of the tweens were non-verbal, one needed help eating, one was in a wheelchair, and a few were on the spectrum. I also learned that not all the kids wanted to be buddied up.

As we all know when planning programs, flexibility and being open to try new things is very important.   And from this, we can learn and grow, right? Well, for me, panic and fear came before learning and growing! My neat and tidy plan of buddying up the kids was not going to work. I didn’t want to force anyone to be a buddy. So we went to Plan B: we brought in some high schoolers to help out.

The result?   
It went so far past my expectations. The kids had a great time. Everyone was kind and helpful.  Almost everyone who left asked when we were going to have another event.  It was truly was one of the most memorable nights of my career! 

Why did it work? 
It worked for many reasons: amazing partnerships, parental and school involvement, wonderful tweens, and dedicated high school volunteers.

I learned so much from that night. I learned that there is a huge need for this kind of programming.   I learned that the high school volunteers played a vital role in the evening’s success. They assisted those who needed extra help and were great role models.   I learned that every single tween in that room benefitted from the night. Many of the kids who attended weren’t the “cool kids” (by middle school standards; by my standards they were the coolest kids ever).  We had tweens who were homeschooled and from private schools.  I learned that I will keep this model of not assigning specific buddies.  Some of those in attendance had never interacted with people with special needs.

This program was a wonderful opportunity for kids who didn’t feel ready or comfortable enough to have a buddy on their own.  It created a more safe and fluid environment.  Everyone interacted with different people. It truly felt like a safe zone which was free of judgment. I don’t think that happens very often for these young people.  Kids of all abilities need a place they can feel comfortable and this fit the bill. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Online Learning Opportunity: Children with Disabilities at Your Library

Don't miss Webjunction's upcoming FREE webinar entitled "Serving the Underserved: Children with Disabilities at Your Library."  This presentation shares inspiring programming and innovative ideas for libraries to serve children with special needs.  It is hosted by Renee Grassi, Youth Department Director at the Glen Ellyn Public Library.

Click here to register!

: October 21, 2014

Time: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time (1-2:30 CST)

Webinar Description
Whether large or small, rural or urban, all library communities serve patrons with special needs. Developing an awareness of and sensitivity to children with disabilities is crucial for providing top-notch library services. This webinar shares inspiring programming and innovative ideas for new services to target this special population. Learn about what online resources are available for staff to serve children with special needs more fully, and explore strategies to reevaluate and make new accommodations in existing youth programs for an inclusive audience.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Summer 2014 Meeting Recap

The Deerfield Public Library hosted the August SNAILS meeting at their redesigned library. Tamara Kaldor from Chicago Play Pro was the featured guest speaker who shared information about using apps with children with disabilities. We also welcomed Paula Shapiro, Youth Services Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library, who shared what her library has done to serve children and tweens with special needs. Below is a recap of the meeting, but be sure to stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post highlighting in more detail Paula's innovative buddy program for tweens of all abilities.

Using Apps with Children with Special Needs
Tamara is a developmental therapist and advocate for people with disabilities at Chicago Play Pro. Her primary focus is working with children with special needs, but for the last several years, she has worked with librarians to help train and promote accessibility and inclusion in public libraries. As she explained during her presentation, "When I think about technology and kids, in the world of special needs and learning disabilities, the iPad is a game changer. It's a new pen, a new notebook. It breaks barriers. It gives a voice to children that had done. While technology can be given the stigma of being the big divider, for people with disabilities, the iPad is the great connector." Her presentation included an overview of apps to use with children with special needs that promote and support life skills, communication skills, play, and a love of learning and reading. She also shared ideas about how to use apps in existing library programs and services.

Here is a list of the various apps that were covered in Tamara's presentation:

Visual schedules

Choiceworks creates customizable, shareable, and printable visual schedules, preloaded with already created stories about feelings and emotions
Choiceworks Calendar creates personalized calendar with visual supports, features settings to create a countdown to what's coming next to alleviate anxiety, ability to import photos into event calendar with alarms
First Then offers simple choice boards for simple choice making

Book Making
Book Creator: standard in special education classrooms, can be preloaded with sounds, videos and pictures, option to record voice and import that into the book; not always compatible to send via email
Keynote: the Apple version of PowerPoint to create customizable books
Super Hero Comic Book Maker: elementary school aged app for kids to create their own stories
Comic Life: used in schools, elementary and middle school aged app, great for visual learners

Tico Timer: timer and music is customizable, includes relaxing visuals, great for young and older children
Stop and Go: basic timer with red, yellow and green flashlight image
Smore: website for creating interactive flyers and newsletters with printable, quality templates

Open Play
Toca Tea Party: open play app for practicing and encouraging imagination and pretend play
My Play Home: examples of real learning end experiences, diverse representation of family members

Other Online Resources
  • edshelf: resource to create customizable handouts of apps in easy to use format, great idea for parent handout resources
  • free resource designed for teachers to give students movement breaks, easy to use videos to implement in storytimes for kids that would benefit from tech sensory breaks
  • GoAnimate: website where you can type in words and choose voices for animated creatures
  • ThingLink: online hotspots that link to videos, photos, or content published online (website and app)
  • Toca Boca  and Duck Duck Moose: great quality apps that are fun and easy for children to use
  • TEC Center at Ericson Institute: includes a list of educator resources for librarians about technology and early childhood education
Ideas for Implementation at Your Library
  • Create a social story for kids about the library to prepare them for a visit to the library
  • Send a visual schedule to parents via email before a program to prepare their child for a particular library program
  • Print and laminate a visual schedule for kids that corresponds with the activities in the program; use a dry erase marker to check off the activities as they are completed
  • Print out a "When I get angry" book; have it displayed in the youth department for families to use and read while they are at the library
  • Use a projector to display a visual timer or a board
  • Have a sensory break space in the library to help kids practice being more calm
  • Create a monthly calendar with images and importable photos to promote upcoming pictures, post a screenshot of the calendar
  • Use a book creating app to encourage children to make their own stories about life experiences, this is especially useful for children with visual impairments because you could enlarge text and pictures
  • Host a volunteer project program at your library, have teens and adults help to create adapted books for kids with special needs
  • Take pictures of kids during program and send kids photos about what happened during the program, assists with sequencing and helps kids enjoy what happened during program at home
  • If you don't have any digital versions of flannel board pieces or storyboards to send via email, take pictures of them and sent them out to families in advance so that the children can anticipate what rhymes or stories are coming up
  • Share apps at youth department meeting so that everyone is familiar with apps, this is particularly useful to keep up with technology's constant updates and allow staff to focus on exploring on their own
  • Genius Kid Hour program idea: kids showcasing apps and teaching others how to play and learn, allows kids to have leadership capabilities

Monday, August 11, 2014

Share your story--blog for SNAILS!

SNAILS is looking for guest bloggers!  This is a great opportunity for you to contribute to the group and to share important information with our member libraries and beyond.  Guest posts can offer information on issues related to serving children with special needs in libraries.  Bloggers may write about a wide variety of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Programming
  • School Outreach
  • Community Partnerships
  • Collection Development
  • Staff Training
  • Sensory Strategies
  • Inclusion/Making Accommodations
  • Technology and Apps
  • Parent Workshops
  • Local Events and Programs

If you are interested in contributing to the SNAILS blog, contact SNAILS using the "Contact Us" section on the bottom right hand side of the screen.  Please be sure to include the following information.  We look forward to your contributions!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



Email address:

Please check one.  I am interested in being a SNAILS guest blogger 
  • One time only
  • Semi-regularly, a few times a year
  • Frequently, ask me anytime!
Please check all that apply.  Topics I am interested in blogging about:

  • Programming
  • School Outreach
  • Community Partnerships
  • Collection Development
  • Staff Training
  • Sensory Strategies
  • Inclusion/Making Accommodations
  • Parent Workshops
  • Technology and Apps
  • Local Events and Programs
  • Other(s):

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Visiting High School Special Education Classrooms

"Thank you so much for visiting my class today and creating such interesting lessons. Every student asked me when you’ll be coming back! We appreciate all your time and effort.  You are awesome! It is so wonderful that you and the library are making a clear effort to our students that they are welcome and wanted. When can we schedule another visit?"

I received this lovely message from a teacher after I visited her class. As part of the School Outreach team, I visit classrooms frequently over the course of a school year. However, this instance was particularly rewarding because it was one of my first visits with our local high school’s special education department. Since then, I’ve been back many times and have formed wonderful connections with teachers and students. Every school and every group of students are different and you’ll want to adjust your plan to best fit their needs, but here are a few things I keep in mind before a school visit.
Familiarize yourself with the students.
Request a roster of names before the visit. This gives me time to familiarize myself with the students before I even set foot in their classroom. I make printed name plates for each student and send them to the teacher before my first visit of the year. I ask that the students decorate them and put them on their desks during my visit. I’ve found this method is not only a great way to learn names, but helps build excitement before the visit. It also provides an opportunity for sharing and conversation during the visit. For instance, “I see you drew a dog on your nametag! Do you have any pets at home?”

Ask the approximate reading level and age of students. The classes I currently work with average between a 2nd and 4th grade reading level, and do not separate students by grade. This means that all students, freshman though senior, share a classroom. When inquiring about reading levels, I’ve asked teachers to give me examples of books students responded well to in their classes.

Plan ahead and share with the teacher.
Besides letting students know that the library is a friendly, safe place for them, what is the goal of your visit? Does the classroom teacher want you discuss space and include a science experiment for students? Are they learning about measurement in math or trying their hand at new recipes in Life Skills? Occasionally teachers will let the visit be a “treat” for students and ask me to bring in something fun and silly, but more often than not my visits build off of their curriculum.

Knowing the number of students in the classroom helps with my planning tremendously. My visits typically involve handouts, crafts, or prop stories that require audience participation so I want to make sure I have supplies for everyone. When I told the story Stone Soup during a visit about cooking and measuring, I brought enough ingredients so the teachers could participate in the story as well. Providing supplies for teachers helps out two-fold: students think it’s hilarious when their teachers act out stories and songs (particularly those by Jim Gill) and it gives teacher a chance to model behavior for students. 

Your biggest and best resource, and occasional cheerleader, is the classroom teacher. They are the most familiar with their students’ interests, habits, and triggers. Unless a teacher or student tells me directly about a particular diagnosis, I don’t know about or ask for specifics. What I do ask about are students’ favorite books, movies, or songs. What have they been learning about in their other classes? Are students involved in extracurricular activities? Then I try building a connection between that information and what I’m presenting. For example, I know that students learn how to make basic recipes in their Life Skills class each week, so when I was asked to design a space-themed visit for science, I led an activity about astronauts’ meals and nutrition.

I always send my lesson plan to the classroom teacher a week or two in advance of my visits for review. I make it very clear that if any tweaks or changes are necessary in the best interests of their students, I’m happy to do so and teachers very much appreciate the flexibility. It also provides me a little reassurance that my visit will be at level and on track with what is going on in the classroom.

Get up and move.
I mix things up in my other programs, so why not in the classroom? After getting the OK from the classroom teacher, I’ve brought in music with shakers, and scarves to share with students. Some students are reluctant to participate for various reasons, and that’s okay. I don’t push a student to participate, but I do let them know that if they change their mind, they can join in whenever they like. 

Be flexible.
We Youth Services Librarians pride ourselves on our flexibility. I always bring more books than I need and have a few extra activities up my sleeve. I’ll give a brief book talk of each title and let the students decide which I read first by a vote. If students are having a lot of fun with a story or activity, I don’t mind letting them linger on it for longer than I originally planned. This means that we don’t always get to everything on the lesson plan, but it’s never been a problem for myself or the teacher. There may be a few hiccups at first, but in my experience teachers have always been kind, patient with all of my questions, and appreciative of library services.

Most importantly, have fun!

Sarah Okner is a Youth Services Librarian at Vernon Area Public Library District.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

iPad Workshop

SNAILS member Sarah Okner of Vernon Area Public Library invites you to the following program this August:

Using iPads with Children with Special Needs
(For Parents and Teachers)
Monday, August 11, 2014, 7:00pm
Vernon Area Public Library
300 Olde Half Day Road
Lincolnshire, IL 60069

Explore multiple strategies for using iPads to enhance communication and relationships for children with special needs. This workshop - designed for parents, teachers, and caregivers - demonstrates early literacy apps as well as those that build play skills. There will be time for questions.

This program is free and open to all adults, but registration is required. Register online, by telephone at 224-543-1486, or in person at any service desk in the library.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Spring 2014 Meeting Recap

Vernon Hills Public Library hosted our spring meeting on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 in their beautifully redesigned library. We covered a lot of ground in a few short hours, so if you weren't able to attend, please take some time to soak in this recap.

Leap into Literacy
Rita Angelini, founder of Leap into Literacy, shared the history and mission of her organization as well as the process of creating an adaptive book by translating the text into Boardmaker symbols, laminating the pages, and adding page fluffers. About a dozen suburban libraries have already received a donation of these books, and Rita is working with volunteers and SNAILS to provide them to many more libraries. To see which libraries already carry Rita's books, as well as the books' titles, visit the new Leap into Literacy website

After Rita's presentation, a conversation ensued about the extra time it takes for Technical Services to catalog and process adaptive books. Due to the books' modified format, bibliographic records cannot be downloaded from OCLC; and, therefore, they must be cataloged from scratch. If your catalogers would like to see examples of how other libraries have cataloged Leap into Literacy books check out Arlington Heights Memorial Library, Prospect Heights Public LibrarySkokie Public Library, or Tinley Park Public LibraryBooks can be easily interlibrary loaned through ILS consortiums or Innovative's INNreach (i.e. LINKin), but borrowing from a library outside your group can prove to be a little more difficult for your ILL librarian.

A couple of other topics that came up were shelving and promotion. If your library has Leap into Literacy books, where do you shelve them? How do you promote them to the public or to schools?

Holly gave an overview of Mayer Johnson's Boardmaker® software so that those considering purchasing the software would have an idea of how it works. At this point, most libraries are using it to print visual supports such as program schedules, so the basic Boardmaker® v.6 - with or without the addendum libraries - is sufficient. It's not difficult to learn, but it does take some practice. Does your library have Boardmaker®?

Visual Supports
A few of us shared examples of how we use visual supports in our special needs programs. Lindsay has been encouraging all of her storytime teachers at Arlington Heights Memorial Library to incorporate basic visual supports into their regular storytimes. We also took a quick look at Boardmaker Share and the new Boardmaker Achieve Community where others are sharing their Boardmaker creations.

Hi-Lo Books
Renee created a great bibliography for Glencoe Public Library called "Books You Will Like! Hi-Lo Books for Grades 5-8," which recommends individual fiction, biography, and nonfiction titles, as well as two series, audiobooks and Playaways. Holly mentioned the "ALA 2012: What's UP with Hi-Lo?" Publishers Weekly article by Shannon Maughan and provided a list of recommended true hi-lo publishers and distributors as well as a few reluctant reader booklists.

Summer Reading Club Discussion
Inspired by the article, Summer Reading Club: Inviting Accessibility by Cynthia Ford of the British Columbia Library Association, we broke into small groups to discuss the following questions:
  1. What benefits do summer reading clubs provide for families of children with special needs?
  2. What barriers exist that prevent children with special needs from participating in summer reading clubs?
  3. What are strategies to make our summer reading clubs accessible from the start? 
  4. What are examples of accommodations that we can make as we go along?
  5. What are methods for inviting families of children with special needs to participate in our programs?
Great food for thought. After our discussion, Renee distributed copies of her fantastic ALSC blog post entitled "10 Quick Tips for Marketing to Families of Children with Special Needs."

Vernon Area Library
Pam Minarik graced us with her presence and shared passionately about the impact that the FACE-IT book discussion program has had on incarcerated youth. Sarah Okner then told us about her outreach to high school special education students and generously shared a few of her lesson plans. We want to hear much more from Sarah and Pam, so check back later for an additional post.

Wow, what a meeting! Our next SNAILS gathering is scheduled for Wednesday, August 13, 2014. We're a little late in identifying locations for the 2014-2105 season, so if you'd be willing to host this amazing networking group please contact Holly at hjin(at) 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Temple Grandin is coming to Chicago!

I'm so excited -- Temple Grandin is going to be in Chicago this month, and there's no charge to see her!! Thanks to Family Action Network, she will be making two presentations in the near north suburbs on May 21, 2014:

"Autism and My Sensory-Based World"
4:00pm (educator focus)
New Trier High School, Winnetka Campus
Gaffney Auditorium
385 Winnetka Ave., Winnetka, IL 60093

"Different Kinds of Minds" 
With her mother, Eustacia Cutler
Moderated by Molly Losh, Ph.D., Northwestern University
7:30pm (general public)
Welsh-Ryan Arena, Northwestern University
2705 Ashland Ave., Evanston, IL 60208
Registration requested for evening event.

Believe me, you don't want to miss this opportunity! Temple Grandin is an incredible woman who has redesigned the livestock industry and redefined Autism in America. She is a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and the author of many books, including her most recent, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum. If you don't have time to read her book, you might want to read the children's biography by Sy Montgomery, Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, or watch the HBO movie Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes. Here's a little video just to whet your appetite.

Hope to see many of you on May 21!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Winter 2014 Meeting Recap

Our winter meeting was held on Wednesday, February 12 at the Glenside Public Library.  Thank you to our hosts and to all of those who attended for your contributions to our discussions that day.  It was great to see you!  Here’s the meeting recap, with a video of JJ’s presentation:

JJs's List
JJ Hanley from JJ’s List spoke to the group about Disability Awareness.  JJ’s List is a website that collects reviews for people with disabilities, similar to Yelp.  Visitors can post information and reviews.  It’s a resource for people to use to find out how disability aware a business is.  The Directory includes at least 23 industry sectors, including libraries.  JJ encouraged the group to post our own reviews of area businesses as well as to add our libraries to the directory.  Contact Sarah Armour (sarah(at) to help you manage your profile.  JJ’s List will also work with you to help your library get a Disability-Aware Business Seal of Approval.  Check out the JJ’sList blog, too.  If you would like to post a guest blog, contact Phillister Sidigu at philister(at) or 847-869-0000 x27.
JJ’s List provides a number of other services in addition to the directory.  The Disability Awareness Players can do a training that helps businesses learn how to connect with customers of all abilities.  JJ’s List also partners with the Pace Suburban Bus System.  The program teaches adults with developmental learning disabilities how to use public transportation.

Advocacy and Marketing
After JJ’s presentation, the group talked about advocacy and marketing.  How do you advocate for special needs at your library?  How do you advocate for staff training?  How do you advocate for special needs to be a part of your strategic planning?  How do you market special needs programs and services at your library?  What is your end goal with marketing? 
Some of the tips included; Consider meeting with your special needs district to create a community survey to identify needs and to assess community interests and the perception of the library.  Get feedback in writing.  Go to parent groups.  Find out what other organizations are offering and on what days, to avoid calendar conflicts.  Form an advisory group of parents of children with special needs.  Attend disability expos to connect with caregivers and to tell people about the library’s programs and resources.  Caregivers also appreciate hearing that we know we have areas we need to improve on. 
The discussion continued after Holly Jin from Skokie Public Library shared her marketing materials for “Come On In: The Library is a Fun Place for Children with Special Needs.”  Check out the website and video.  Attendees agreed that sending out emails to parents the night before a program can prove a very effective way to increase attendance the next day.  You could also consider promoting your services with flyers or posters placed at therapy centers and public transportation stations. 

Autism Webinar
The meeting concluded with a tour of the Glenside Public Library and a webinar presented by Barbara Klipper.  The next meeting will be hosted at the Vernon Area Public Library on Wednesday, April 23 at 9:30 am.  RSVP to Sarah Okner.  Hope to see you all there!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Resources for Expanding Accessible Services & Programs at Your Library

Library services for children with disabilities are continuing to expand by leaps and bounds.  In the last year alone, three separate professional resources have been published specifically targeting this exact topic.  Each of these three books has something incredibly meaningful to contribute to our profession, and all of them are worthwhile purchases for your library's professional collection or your own bookshelf.  Check them out!
Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder 
Written by Barbara Klipper
Purchase a copy HERE at the ALA Store
Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder is unlike anything else I have even seen in professional library literature thus far.  Not only does it contain in-depth background info about autism and suggests methods for securing funding, it features step-by-step program models from librarians across the country.  These detailed program models are complete with lists of books, rhymes, songs, resources, and supplies ready for librarians to use and adapt into their own public or school library
                                            settings. Including Families of Children with Special Needs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians
Revised by Carrie Scott Banks
Purchase a copy HERE at the ALA Store
Including Families of Children with Special Needs is the quintessential resource for librarians inclusion in all of its forms.  This resource gives an overview about developing and maintaining partnerships and collaborations with organizations in the community.  It also helps library professionals assess their own competencies and skills, as well as talks about various principles underlying family-centered services and resources.

Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Written by Lesley S. J. Farmer
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Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder is an excellent resource for background information about autism.  This book equips readers with practical tools for staff and volunteer training, proposes strategies for using library design to ensure that materials and services are accessible, and helps to increase readers' understanding of the diagnosis as it relates to a library setting.