If you work in a school, chances are you are in contact with a student with autism.
The UK’s National Autistic Society states that 1 in every 100 school children in the UK is autistic and over 40% of them say they’ve been bullied at school.
Schools play a crucial role in fighting the stigma around autism and making autistic children’s experiences less stressful. The library plays a vital role in this by providing a safe, quiet space for everyone and ensuring the correct literature gets into the hands of students and staff members to combat preconceived notions around autism.
The library can be a safe haven, but both public and school libraries need to take a few steps to ensure it is a place someone with autism wants to visit.
Dimensions UK has done extensive research on this and found that people with autism are more likely to visit a library but most don’t because of barriers they come across. Here are some ways libraries can be more autism-friendly:
The main thing that people and families of people with autism want is understanding. In Dimensions’ research they found that 80% of people with autism who took the survey felt excluded from their community.
For a full guide on making a library autism-friendly, Dimensions UK has a great resource.
Having books that focus on empathy and understanding around autism are also crucial. Here are two that stand out.
In many cases, the writers don’t blame their parents; some do, but some had tough upbringings. Throughout the book, many authors claim their parents did the best they could based on what was known at the time. It’s a very heartfelt look at girls with autism and how each struggle is different, each person’s case varies from the next person.
Interspersed throughout the novel are Tally’s diary entries, which serve as informational pieces for the reader. These are extremely helpful, especially to anyone who has autism or works or lives with someone who does have autism. Can You See Me? is a beautifully written story that should be required reading for staff at any school.
It’s difficult to measure the amount of empathy this wonderful novel will instill into those who read it because we are all experiencing the world differently. But I can guarantee it will open eyes and hearts.