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Autism awareness in dlr Libraries 2019

News Type 
Date 
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Location 
dlr County
Intro Text 
Did you know April is Autism Awareness Month, and Tuesday 2nd April 2019 is World Autism Awareness Day?
 
The percentage of children diagnosed with autism or autism spectrum (AS) in Ireland is growing year on year.  Ireland does not have an autism registry, this means we do not formally record the number of people diagnosed with autism in Ireland. As well as this, we do not ask people if they are autistic on the Census. It is estimated that around 1 in 100 people have a diagnosis of autism. A recent prevalence study, conducted by AsIAm.ie and Dublin City University, found approximately 48,000 people in Ireland are on the autism spectrum. The Department of Education and Skills report a growing number of children attending special classes in mainstream school. In the school year 2014/15 this figure was 3816. By 2016/17 the number had grown to 4836*. (*Not all of the children attending these classes have an AS diagnosis.)
 
dlr Libraries now have a working group of motivated staff members interested to improve our services for those with autism. We are taking a holistic approach and seeking to address a number of elements which, in reality, must come together in order to be considered that we are an AS friendly library service. We have begun to examine our library service under a number of headings and look at actions we can take.
Headings include:
-the library environment (physical, digital, human)
-event programming
-staff training
-collection
Underlying all these actions is the idea that we are not trying to create a library specifically for people with a diagnosis of autism, rather we are seeking to ensure that all our libraries are autism friendly, in the same way that we are accessible for wheelchair and other users. We also seek to offer some autism specific programming and services when possible.
 
The library environment: physical and digital
We hope to ensure that all our libraries are fully accessible and welcoming spaces for people with AS. In looking at the physical environment we need to consider features such as colour, lighting, awareness of soundscapes, and visual clutter. Any new library builds will be built to autism and accessibility standards.
We need to look carefully at our online space in the same way that we look at our physical spaces to ensure that these too are AS friendly. We will be cognisant of best practise in web design when considering the needs of people with AS.
We will be creating social stories for those with autism for each of our branch libraries.
 
The library environment: human
One of the biggest assets in any public service is the staff and in building an AS friendly service it is vital that all staff are aware of the importance of the role that they play. AsIam have developed an online training module aimed specifically at the public sector and we have begun to roll this training out to library staff. In addition to awareness training there may also be a need for specific event management training. We understand as well that we play a role in elevating consciousness of those with autism through clear signage which helps all of our users understand autism.
 
Event programming
In seeking to be an inclusive library service our programme of events reflects the broad spectrum of customers and users of dlr Libraries. Most events are available to all members or our communities to attend. For April 2019 we have programmed both autism friendly and autism specific events.
We have sensory storytimes, yoga storytimes, literacy and art appreciation for adults with autism, a screening of ‘This is Nicholas’ an award winning documentary and Q&A with writer and director Nicholas Ryan-Purcell, a quiet room in Deansgrange library and quiet evenings in both Cabinteely and Dundrum libraries. For information on all this and more please see https://events.dlrcoco.ie/event/autism-awareness-dlr-libraries
 
 
Collection: book and non-book
Our core collections, like our event programming, reflect the diverse interests and needs of the communities we serve. Our book and non-book stock should contain AS specific collections. We have created a list of books that will appeal to those with autism/sensory issues as well as books about autism and resources for those interested in autism and for caregivers. We are also currently sourcing items for dlr Libraries first ever T&T collection (Toys and Technology) these will be borrowable by users with autism and additional needs, more details to follow soon. We would like to acknowledge funding from Creative Ireland which has helped us to purchase equipment for our quiet room, as well as help fund our autism booklist and T&T collection.
 
We are aware there are organisations already doing a great deal of work in the area of inclusivity. With this in mind we have reached out to AsIAm, Ireland's national autism charity regarding creating an action plan for autism in dlr Libraries. AsIAm have poof read our action plan and are happy to support us in our endeavours in this area. We have also collaborated recently with PRISM DLR.
 
If you are a teacher with an autism special class in the area we are happy to work with you. We are learning and we hope you will appreciate and assist us in this regard. If you have any feedback, suggestions or observations for us we would love to hear them, please email libraryculture@dlrcoco.ie with subject line: ‘Autism friendly libraries’.
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