Friday, July 24, 2009


If I tell you a story, will you tell me a story?

I've been nudged to think still more about the contents of my Library Conference post from a few days ago, after getting comments both from the moderator of the "Serving Students Along the Autism Spectrum" conference session, and from the creators of the "Libraries and Autism: We're Connected" training program and materials. An exchange of e-mails has followed, and some of my feedback has been incorporated into the Libraries and Autism web site -- plus Elvis Sightings seems to have become an Autism Blog of Interest, woohoo!

Anyway, this all led me to reflect on my own experience with Joy and the local public library. I'm hoping to hear some autism-related library stories from my readers too.

Joy is not an easy match with the public library. When Rose was little, I could take her to play with the books and toys, and she'd spend hours coloring or building with their huge toy blocks or perusing books with me. Joy doesn't work that way. She'd throw (or eat) the crayons, use the aisles as a racetrack, have little-to-no interest in the books I'd present.

In fact, it's even more challenging with books lately. Joy has always been hard on her board book collection, but the newest wrinkle is: she's decided that the best use for a board book is to fold it backwards, presumably for the sensory delight in breaking its spine. More and more of her books have ended up as tattered individual cardboard pages.

I don't check out library books for Joy to mangle.

Our most successful public-library experiences have come courtesy of a friend of ours who also happens to be the children's librarian at a nearby branch. Together with Joy's former daycare bud and his mom, we'd sign up for toddler story-times led by this librarian, for half-hour sessions full of songs, fingerplay, books and toys. I would have to do a lot of corralling Joy, and occasionally she'd be too intent on leaving to make it worth staying. The big bonus, though, was having the toddler-time led by someone who knew her and valued her, someone she was comfortable with, who didn't get bent out of shape when Joy was noisy or not particularly attentive or masticating her nametag or whatever.

Joy's full schedule of intensive autism therapy has pretty much ruled out any story-time attendance lately. I do take her to the library but it's mostly for my own errands, to check out books that I've placed on hold and to return others. She does enjoy helping me put each book into the return slot and pushing it until it falls, but I pretty much have to keep a tight hold on her hand the entire time we're there.

What public library memories do you have to share? (I said autism-related above, but if you have a non-spectrum story to share, sure, why not.) What works well at your public library in that regard? What doesn't? What would you change about it if you had your druthers? Tell me your story!


jess wilson said...

our biggest challenge with the library is that it's quiet. we're um, not quiet. and the occasional scream isn't really particularly well received either.

so i can't say we've spent an awful lot of time at the library as a family.

abcgirl said...

aw. thanks for your story! it means a lot to me to read your kind words. I have to say that Joy is definitely not the only kid in my Toddler Time who has ever been noisy or inattentive or chewed on her nametag--that's pretty much normal for those groups. Which is why it always boggles my mind to hear that in other libraries, kids with that same attention span (i.e. tiny) are required to sit still and listen to long books being read aloud. Our library (much to some of our patrons' dismay) is NOT a particularly quiet place, especially in the children's area.

I'm glad that my relationship with you and with Joy helped you to both feel comfortable at my library. Come back anytime you can!

JoyMama said...

abcgirl -- credit where credit is due, m'dear! I'll print & sign a copy of this for your "how I done it good" file...

datri said...

Since I'm a reader, one of the most upsetting things about Kayla's autism is that she refuses to sit and look at a book with me. It's damn heartbreaking, really. Stupid lack of joint attention.

It's funny, though. Kayla always did much better at library story time than Laurie. Laurie was always up running around. She couldn't sit still. Of course, Kayla couldn't walk when she attended story time (before entering PreK at age 2 1/2!).

mama edge said...

We've had our share of ruined library materials, which I've paid for with my head hung shamefully, grateful that the librarian didn't immediately revoke our check-out privileges.

The library has saved my sanity and my budget more times than I can count. Every time we have to do a road-trip to Taz's neurologist, we go to the library to check out the books on tape that will keep Taz occupied for the four hours we'll be on the road, round trip.

Neither of my boys particularly enjoyed library reading programs when they were younger, but these days they LOVE the presentations (e.g. a Reptile guy visits with his snakes), teen movie screenings, Dance-Dance-Revolution parties, chess clubs, etc. I've noticed that these activities seem to attract kids on the spectrum who aren't "too cool" to hang out at the library on a Friday night.

JoyMama said...

datri - I agree about the way it feels not to be able to read to your little girl. :( As far as older sibs go, we had an interesting experience with Rose for toddler time -- at a different branch w/ a different librarian. Rose did really well with the first set of toddler-time sessions I took her to, but then when we went back again for another series after a little break, she started sobbing and refused to enter the room. I never did figure out why, but since that was the one story-time that fit our schedule, we just dropped the whole thing for her. Fortunately Rose has ALWAYS liked books, and has turned into quite the reader so far.

mama edge - fascinating perspective on the spectrum kids that hit the Friday night events! Do the library staff cope pretty well with a spectrum-heavy crowd?

Anonymous said...

Here's a nice one: