Children’s Library at the Temecula Public Library.
According to estimates by the Center for Disease Control, one in every eight children has autism. Further, autism diagnosis has increased 78 percent over the past decade. It is fitting, then, that this month’s featured library, Temecula (Calif.) Public Library (TPL), has developed new programming and created a resource center specifically for families with children on the autism spectrum.
Beginning in August, the library will offer a new, monthly story time especially for two- to five-year-olds with special needs. It incorporates the library’s new “Play and Learn” (PAL) island, which is equipped with activities that have been proven to be entertaining to children on the autism scale, such as blocks, magnets, and other shapes. The new story time joins the library’s La Hora del Cuento, a bilingual story time, and Paws to Read, during which children can practice their reading skills by reading aloud to a service dog.
Children aren’t the only ones benefiting from this new lineup of programs. For parents of children on the autism scale, the library recently hosted a forum of autism experts who spoke about early identification and intervention of autism spectrum disorders. The program was free, and featured speakers from the Autism Discovery Institute at Rady Children’s Hospital as well as a certified pediatrician. For attendees, these programs not only serve as an invaluable resource about autism, but also offer an opportunity to network with other parents in order to share mutual experiences. Some even trade contact information to further their connection beyond the library’s walls and programming.
These programs are part of the library’s larger efforts to inform patrons about autism, and offer aid and resources to children on the autism spectrum as well as their families. TPL strives to be a welcoming place for all children, and to achieve this goal the library staff has been trained on how to better engage and work with children on the autism spectrum. The effort, Special Needs Access at Your Public Library (S.N.A.P.L.) has also resulted in a special section of the library being dedicated to materials related to, and for, children with autism.
In addition to PAL island, the library also has a growing collection of autism-related books, for parents and children alike, that have been donated by Our Nicholas Foundation, a non-profit autism awareness organization. This allows parents to read up on autism-related topics—such as special diets, or new research—while their children also read or play. Coming soon, the library will offer iPads with applications that are popular with children on the autism spectrum. This addition is a response to recent research that has shown that tablet computers are effective in helping some autistic children communicate better.