Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Meet Julia, the first Sesame Street Muppet with autism

The Muppets of Sesame Street are getting a new friend for the first time in years! Julia, a red-headed four-year-old with big, green eyes, loves to sing and jump and happens to have autism.

Julia was first introduced digitally in 2015 as an illustrated character in an online storybook entitled "We're Amazing, 1,2,3!" (which can be viewed on the Sesame Street and Autism website or by downloading the app for iOS, or Android).

This year, during Autism Awareness Month, Julia will make her TV debut as a Muppet on Sesame Street! Tune into PBS Kids or HBO on Monday, April 10 to meet Julia and learn about autism. Muppeteer Stacey Gordon, who has a child with autism and used to work as therapist for kids on the spectrum, has the privilege of bringing Julia to life.

Learn more about Julia, Stacey Gordon, and the Sesame Street: See Amazing in All Children initiative by viewing this report from the Today Show.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Targeting Autism Forum open for Registration

The Illinois State Library is currently accepting registrations for the third Targeting Autism Forum, to be held at the Illinois State Library, in Springfield, Illinois, on May 11-12, 2017.

The Illinois State Library was awarded two grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help libraries better serve patrons and family members impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Phase I, Targeting Autism: A National Forum on Serving Library Patrons on the Spectrum received funding through an IMLS National Leadership Grant. Through two stakeholder forums, this phase of the project – was designed to explore how libraries can work with diverse community organizations and programs to increase their role in supporting patrons and family members impacted by ASD.

Phase II of the project, now underway – Targeting Autism: A Comprehensive Training and Education Program for Librarians is funded through an IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant to develop and deliver innovative, multi-faceted and replicable training programs designed to improve library services and programs for ASD communities in Illinois and the country.

Learn more about the 2017 forum, who will be speaking (Michael John Carley and Carrie Banks!), and how you can be one of 80 participants to benefit from this free, two-day training by reading Suzanne Schriar's post on the Targeting Autism blog.

Even if you can't attend the Forum, you can still participate in the learning process. All Forum sessions have been and will continue to be recorded for viewing on the Targeting Autism YouTube Channel.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Free Picture Communication Symbol Sources

Great news, everybody! If you've been wanting to make visual schedules and other supports for your inclusive programs but haven't been able to afford Boardmaker there is now a strong alternative.

Picto-Selector is a free visual support program for Windows and Mac users. It has 28,000 images translated into English, Dutch, German, French, Danish, Spanish, and Italian. Like Boardmaker, there are plenty of images to choose from, and you can customize the placement of the titles, the thickness and edges of the borders, and the background color.

I've just begun to play around with Picto-Selector, so I won't be presenting a full comparison and contrast, but, from a quick look, it does appear to have some advantages over Boardmaker.

  • Boardmaker is very expensive. Picto-Selector is free thanks to ads and user donations.
  • Multiple staff can simultaneously use Picto-Selector because a CD is not needed to run the program.
  • In addition to templates, there is also a Wizard option to help get you started.
  • The Favourite Picto button quickly accesses frequently used images.
  • Many preferences can be set ahead of time (e.g. title placement and rounded edges).
  • Quick and easy exports in multiple formats (e.g. jpgs, pdfs) as well as email and online sharing.

While it's true that children are probably more familiar with Boardmaker from school, I think Picto-Selector looks similar enough. Here's a quick comparison for a simple mini-storytime plan:


I have to say, in the above example, Boardmaker has the advantage on ethnic and gender diversity - there are usually multiple options for the same symbol. However, Picto-Selector is always adding new symbols and updating the software, so you don't run the risk of having to purchase an addendum library of symbols. And it's FREE, thanks to Dutch software developer Martjin van der Kooij.

Try it out! (Just don't be fooled by the green, download ad buttons.) Download the software from the blue text on the left of the download page.

On a side note, if you are working with teens or adults, you might want to give Noun Project a try. Their motto is "Icons for Everything!" and they don't disappoint. You can download everything in black and white for free.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Webinar: Creating Welcoming and Accessible Libraries for Children with Disabilities

Yes, it is true that our fearless leader has left Illinois for Minnesota, but that doesn't mean she is out of reach. On the contrary...

Renee Grassi will be presenting a free webinar called Creating Welcoming and Accessible Libraries for Children with Disabilities on Wednesday, April 12, 10:00-11:00am CST for Minitex, an information and resource sharing program of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Big or small, rural or urban--all public libraries serve children with disabilities in their communities. Librarian and advocate Renee Grassi will show how your library can develop an awareness and an enhanced spirit of inclusion to children with disabilities and their needs for library service. In this workshop, attendees will learn how to perform a community needs assessment and advocate for families, forge new partnerships with other agencies and organizations, and find new and innovative children’s programming and outreach ideas. Participants will also learn about accessible customer service and different approaches to re-evaluate existing children’s programs to attract a more inclusive audience.

Renee is always updating her presentations so there will be something for everyone to learn. Why not invite a coworker, community partner, or patron to view the webinar with you? Just be sure to register online before space runs out. Did I mention it's free?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sign your library up to participate in National Disability Voter Registration Week!

EveryLibrary has announced a new partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) to bring National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) 2017 to libraries across the country. NDVRW 2017 takes place July 17-21 and is AAPD's second annual program to make voter registration services for people with disabilities easier and more pervasive. Your library can sign on to to participate through programming, outreach, public education, and voter registration partnerships or on-site services this summer by adding your library to this list on the EveryLibrary Action site. All partner libraries that include their business address will receive a free digital resource kit to promote NDVRW 2017 in their communities.

Make the Disability Vote CountAccording to their website, "EveryLibrary is joining NDVRW 2017 to bring libraries across the country into this new partnership to reach all Americans who are eligible to vote. NDVRW supports voter enfranchisement and registering to vote while highlighting issues like accessible ballots, accessible polling places, and policy issues affecting disability communities. AAPD's REV UP Campaign coordinates NDVRW each year to increase the political power of people with disabilities while also engaging candidates and the media to recognize the disability community."

Sign up as a participating library today!