Understanding Sam and other books explaining autism to siblings

If you don’t already have a family member or close friend affected by autism, chances are you will in your lifetime.  Autism now affects 1 in 110 children (and 1 in 70 boys).

One issue that can often be overlooked is how siblings of a child with autism understand what their brother or sister has and how they can help.  Parents of newly diagnosed children are understandably overwhelmed and can find it hard to understand their child’s disorder, nevermind how to explain it to their other children.  While each child with autism is unique, and every family has its own dynamics, it is sometimes helpful to have resources to help jump start a conversation.

Here are five of my favorite books written for siblings of children with autism:

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Steal This Storytime: Spectrum Edition

Back in 2008 I began blogging over at ALSC about doing programs for children with autism. I felt then, and still do, that is is important for libraries to provide storytimes that are distinct from our usual preschool storytimes for children with sensory issues. Children’s Librarian Tricia Bohanon Twarogowski also did a fantastic series on the ALSC Blog in 2009 on Programming for Children’s with Special Needs.

Since 2008, when the rising number of children being diagnosed with various forms of autism began gaining national attention, few libraries were actively providing programs specially designed for these children.  Now, a Google search of “library storytime autism” pulls up over 80,000 results.  Yes!

It makes me so happy to think about the hundreds of children and parents who are being welcomed with open arms into libraries across the country because of this type of specialized programming.  Every single time I offer a Spectrum Storytime, I am bowled over at the gratitude and appreciation from parents and caregivers.  So many moms and dads of children with autism feel uncomfortable, judged, and nervous in most libraries.  Creating a time and a space just for them is such a small, easy step that can lead to a whole new community of users.

At my library, we’ve been offering Spectrum Storytime as a once-a-month program on a Saturday morning.  It’s a very laid back, low-stress environment in which we sing a few songs, read a story, and engage in a sensory-rich activity.  While I’m very proud of the work we have done together meeting once per month, I’ve been itching to do a weekly series for some time.  So, I am incredibly excited that my library will be offering a 5-week session this April in celebration of Autism Awareness month.  Since this will be my first opportunity to do cumulative projects that stretch from week to week, I’ve been rethinking my usual program plan.  I want to keep the basic structure that the kids and parents have come to know and rely on, but add some elements that build on each other throughout the session.  I’ve decided to keep the “storytime” part the same, but design the sensory activities to create works of art that will begin in week 1 and conclude in week 5.

Below is is my program plan for storytime itself and the sensory activities that will change from week to week.  As always, please feel free to steal it whole or in part.  I would also love any suggestions or ideas!   Continue reading

Great Website Alert: Autism Resources for Libraries

via the Librarian in Black:

Here is a great resource: Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.  Many library users have autism, and most library staff don’t know the first thing about interacting with them appropriately.  We’ve just never been trained.  This website offers resources about communication, customer service tips, a video, workshop resources, contacts for more information, and a lot more.  Public libraries and school libraries especially should check this site out.