April is Autism Acceptance Month

By Shelley Harris, Children’s Librarian

Did you know that April is Autism Acceptance Month? This month devoted to celebrating autistic people and autistic experiences was created 11 years ago by advocate Paula C. Durbin-Westby.

In this interview, Durbin-Westby explains, “The word ‘acceptance’ is much stronger than ‘tolerance,’ especially the begrudging sort of tolerance I saw so often. One of the definitions of acceptance is ‘positive welcome and belonging.'”

Since the pandemic began two years ago, we’ve been creating virtual supported content for kids with disabilities. Soon, we’ll be doing in-person supported classes again, particularly in our Community Sensory Garden at the Maze Branch Library this summer.

In the meantime, here are some activities you can do together at home!

Watch these videos

Miss Kelly created a Supported Art class using a visual schedule and modeling vocabulary. Have you tried this project yet?

I made a supported cooking video with a visual schedule and a picture-based recipe. This makes delicious ice cream!

Until supported storytimes are back in person, you can watch some on-demand, with a visual schedule, like this spring-themed class.

Plan a successful library trip

The library prides itself on being a vibrant community space, but sometimes families are nervous about visiting. Maybe they remember the quiet spaces of their youth or feel wary about visiting new places with children who don’t always enjoy new places and things.

I’ve developed tips for successful library visits, whether it’s to Oak Park or another community. 

1. Visit the library’s website

In the calendar of events, search for programs that include the words “supported,” “adapted,” “sensory,” etc. These programs are designed for kids with disabilities. Our programs are called “supported.” The main difference between these classes is that fidgets and schedules are built into them. These supports are always available for any class on request, as well.

Visit the kids’ department page and see if you can find photos of staff you’ll meet or social narratives of what to expect on a visit. We have a social narrative (pdf) available online and one printed out at the Children’s Services desk at the Main Library. 

2. Visit the library without your child.

Get a feel for the space. Most libraries these days are far from silent! That’s something that might be helpful for your child, or not. Seeing the layout and meeting the staff may help put your worries to rest, especially if you haven’t visited in a long time.

If you don’t have a library card, get one now. Bring a photo identification card and proof of your address: a utility bill, recently postmarked mail, etc. Plan to bring your ID and proof back with your child to get their card. 

If you can’t visit, browse social media for photos of the space and look for guidelines on websites. The Use Your Library page is a great place to start for us! 

Children and teen departments can be very busy, active places. Explore what the library has that you can tell your child about!

At the Main Library, kids can complete scavenger hunts for pins every month, do arts and crafts, play games or puzzles, borrow LaunchPad tablets preloaded with educational games, and, of course, a lot of books!

Picture books are arranged by favorite genres like “Action Heroes,” “Royal Reads,” “Chills and Thrills,” and “Things That Go.” We also have great DVD and Blu-ray options. 

The Children’s Services Area at the Main Library has a bucket of supports for successful visits, including noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, and fidgets. No one needs to ask permission to use these, just take them out of the bucket and bring them back when finished. 

3. Plan your visit.

Does your child have a favorite book or TV character? Search the library’s catalog online before you leave to see if there is anything available. Things can get checked out or lost, though, so fair warning.

Define your family rules for borrowing. Plan how many items you’ll check out and if you want to pick any movies or music. At Oak Park, you can check out up to 200 items at a time! 

Discuss how everything needs to go back to the library in three weeks. Look at a calendar and plan a return trip before the due dates, or plan when to drop the materials back off.

Most importantly, plan to stop and say hi to the staff at the Children’s Services desk. We love meeting kids! Some will have stickers to offer, especially for a first visit. We definitely do. You also can ask about favorite characters and be walked over to where you’ll find some new favorites. 

I hope this helps, and we look forward to seeing everyone at the library soon!

Shelley Harris

About Shelley

Shelley is a children’s librarian with a passion for early literacy, serving and celebrating the disability community, and exploring technology. She can often be found practicing storytime songs with her black lab, Bingo.

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