A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Implementing Programs for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

by on April 21, 2014

Libraries are in the business of providing resources and programming for everyone. Holding programs for children with autism fits perfectly in our model and is a great way to reach out to a population that might not have been served as much in the past.

Starting this kind of programming can be daunting, especially if you have little knowledge of how autism spectrum disorder can affect people. Luckily, some experts on the topic have books available through ALA that can help. One option is Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Barbara Klipper, which provides background information on autism, steps to starting various appropriate programs, as well as other helpful information.1 Other possibilities are Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Lesley S. J. Farmer or Including Families of Children with Special Needs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians revised by Carrie Scott Banks.

Another way you can work on starting these kinds of programs is by pulling from what colleagues have already done. Libraries around the country offer specialized programs for children with autism. Five locations within the Brooklyn Public Library offer things like sensory gardens, adaptive toys and tools, and multisensory programs.2 They also provide a wealth of information for parents, including workshops specifically discussing topics associated with disabilities.3

Douglas County Libraries (Colo.) provide Sensory Enhanced Storytime, “an all-ages storytime geared to serve children on the autism spectrum and/or with sensory integration issues.”4 To help make the children and parents feel more comfortable before coming into the library, they also provide a short PowerPoint for parents to discuss with their children. Seattle Public Library provides similar resources for the children and parents in their service area. And, the Tulsa City-County Library created a guide to help implement these programs that discusses how to handle registration, discussions with parents, book selections, and much more.5

One of the best things about libraries is their inclusive nature. Programs that facilitate comfort in and with the library for children with autism spectrum disorder are a fabulous way to promote that aspect of library service.


  1. Christopher, Rob. “Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” ALA.org. January 29, 2014. (accessed February 18, 2014).
  2. Brooklyn Public Library. “Universal Design.” Brooklyn Public Library. n.d. (accessed February 20, 2014).
  3. Brooklyn Public Library. “The Child’s Place.” Brooklyn Public Library. n.d. (accessed February 20, 2014).
  4. Douglas County Libraries. “Sensory Enhanced Storytime.” Douglas County Libraries. n.d. (accessed February 20, 2014).
  5. Tulsa City-County Library Sensory Storytime Pilot Committee. “Sensory Storytime How-to Guide.” Okautism.org. October 2012.

(accessed February 20, 2014).

Tags: , , ,