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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grant Project Ripples



Thanks to Norma Scott, director of the Somerset Public Library, for this post about the lasting effects of the 2012 Autism grant project in her library and her life!

When our library decided to participate in a grant about autism offered through IFLS in 2012,  I knew next to nothing about Autism or Asperger’s and didn’t have a clue about any ‘spectrums’.  Fast forward a year. 

I’m now part of a community Autism Awareness group (AAW), soon to have its name changed to Disabilities Awareness, that’s comprised of parents of children on the spectrum as well as educators.  The function of the group is to raise funds and awareness and to find ways to help the people on the spectrum and their families lead more fulfilling lives. 

In early April, AAW held a community information evening, and three days later we followed up with a community Family Fun Night at the elementary school with attendance of over 1,000.  An Eagle Scout gathered items for Sensory Backpacks that he donated to the school district, which are used on a daily basis.  Just this past month AAW brought in Dr. John Garcia, sleep specialist from Gillette Children’s Specialty Clinics & Hospitals to discuss children’s sleep issues.

Our library has been directly affected by the grant, as well.  Not only do all of us on the staff have a heightened awareness of autism, but we’ve also increased the content of our collection by adding materials for people on the spectrum as well as their families. We’ve added a quiet-area tent structure when a child can go to collect himself as he feels the need.  We’ve decluttered.  We’ve incorporated more sensory items into our story hours.  In March we held a Dr. Seuss birthday party for special needs children.  This summer we held a reading session for a special needs class whose teacher is also in AAW.

I’ve been affected by this grant through the door it opened for me into the lives of people on the spectrum and their caregivers. It also opened me to the subject of Autism at a time when a fledgling group, now called AAW, was just beginning to form.  Had this grant not been in the works I’m sure I wouldn’t have made that first phone call.   My life has been enriched by getting to know some amazingly compassionate, dedicated parents and educators and some darn good kids who need help.  We network daily.  It’s rewarding to get suggestions for programs or collection materials that we know will benefit someone directly and many others indirectly.

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