Adapting Story Time for Kids with Autism
Post co-authored by Jennifer Oppito-Candiano, Associate Coordinator of ArtAccess and Autism Initiatives.
Last week, we worked with Adrienne Hawthorne, Children’s Librarian of Queens Library’s Rosedale branch to create universal design adaptations for their Picture Book Time series. To adapt the programming for kids with autism, we drafted a set of Rules and Schedules for her story time to help ease the child by providing predictability and support for positive behavior. Positive Behavior Support is a researched-based educational strategy where the instructor praises desired behavior while redirecting negative behavior, using visual supports such as rules and schedules. Incorporating this behavior-based educational support is essential for helping children with autism succeed in social settings.
Once she got the hang of the adaptations, Adrienne was inspired to create a new art making program for children 5 to 12 years old, based on the book Harlem by Walter Dean Myers. We gave Adrienne tips on how to create a Visual Vocabulary to define the themes for children who are picture reliant or emerging readers. In response to the lessons learned from Temple Grandin’s book Thinking in Pictures, we developed this tool for museum and library settings. Adrienne also created a separate Visual Vocabulary with library people and spaces to accompany a “getting to know the library” game that increases independence as a library user. The game can take the form of a scavenger hunt paired with social questions, such as asking the reference librarian for a book about musicians of the Harlem Renaissance. Adrienne was also curious about how to integrate materials kept in her closet, so we demonstrated how to use gouache and oil pastels. Pairing art making with a story time provides a multi-sensory experience that benefits children with autism.
With our Autism Initiatives, we are able to bring ArtAccess approaches into the community through the Queens Libraries, helping to create more inviting community institutions for families affected by autism. By building on the librarians’ strengths, like knowledge of their collection and their existing relationships with families in Queens, we hope to boost confidence to open programming for children with autism far beyond our initial three-year grant from IMLS.