The Autism Friendly Libraries initiative has been launched, which aims to provide training and support to library staff and make them more autism-friendly to people with autism.
Research has shown that more than 9 in 10 people with autism would use their library more if some autism friendly adjustments were made. As a result, the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) is to offer training and support to all 3,000 of the nation’s public libraries.
The research, conducted by social care organisation Dimensions, showed that while people with autism are already more likely than other people to use a library, a few changes could lead to 92% increasing their use of their local library.
To support the initiative a film has been developed by Dimensions and is accompanied by fact sheets, signage and social stories. The film features young people and their parents and families talking about the impact public libraries have on their lives and the adjustments and the understanding they need from staff to make the library experience a great one. The film has been made possible thanks to public funding by Arts Council England.
Lisa Hopkins, managing director of Dimensions, said: “Dimensions already works in partnership with the UK’s 4 major cinema chains to offer autism friendly cinema screenings every month and we are delighted to be able to extend our expertise to the libraries network through the partnership which has allowed us to create this film.”
Sarah Mears, chair of ASCEL, said: “Libraries are at the heart of our communities and staff always want to give children and their families the best experience possible. I am excited about this initiative that will help to raise staff awareness of autism-friendly approaches and give them support to make a few simple adjustments which will make a huge difference to children, young people and their families.”
Hopkins added: “The research told us clearly that a major barrier is awareness of autism, amongst library staff and library users alike. Respondents didn’t want much: a little kindness, to be not judged, and for a few simple adaptations to allow for sensory sensitivities. All parts of the community could learn something from that.”
The training materials are available to anyone. Simply visit www.dimensions-uk.org/autismfriendly and follow the links.