According to Occupational Therapist, Bill Wong: “For autistic individuals to succeed in this world, they need to find their strengths and the people that will help them get to their hopes and dreams. In order to do so, ability to make and keep friends is a must. Amongst those friends, there must be mentors to show them the way. A supportive environment where they can learn from their mistakes is what we as a society needs to create for them.”1.
As teen library workers, we have an incredible wealth of resources at our fingertips to assist teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Along with these resources, we have colleagues, community partners, and experts who are passionate and willing to help us with create services and programs for teens with ASD. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating an inclusive environment, but, sometimes, starting from the ground up can be daunting. However, no matter what how long it takes to implement and plan these services and programs, the end result will create an honest dialogue between the library and our entire teen population to foster an environment of camaraderie, acceptance, and empathy.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS):
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities.”2
On March 27, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new study that identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 3 Since 2000, the rates have increased by 119%, which means that ASD is one of the most common development disorders in the United States. Although Autism has been around for more than 100 years, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that Autism was classified as an actual neurological disorder and not a mood disorder (i.e., Schizophrenia). Since ASD is in fact treatable, children are being diagnosed at an early age so they can get the necessary therapies they need to manage thir symptoms. Although the resources are available for an early diagnosis, some parents may have a difficult time finding out how to get their child help due a variety of reasons. Due to these obstacles, children and teens could potentially fall to the wayside in their development and this is where libraries can help children and teens with ASD.