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Reflections on We See You: Programming for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

by Grace Kranz, Adult Services Librarian, Blue Earth County Library (Mankato, MN), PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on June 3, 2024

I attended the PLA 2024 Conference hoping to learn more information about how to create, run, and evaluate programs my community needs. Rebecca Wolfe’s presentation on programming for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities is an excellent example that explains the “why” and “how” behind a set of programs, while simultaneously providing ample resources and advice that can utilized to better plan and evaluate a variety of programs for this select group of individuals.

Wolfe began the presentation by explaining her goals for the presentation – have attendees leave with solid ideas for programming opportunities at our library – and then delved into explaining Allen County Public Library’s community partnerships. Partnering with organizations that focus on adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities allowed Wolfe to reach more people that may benefit from her programming. Wolfe also used feedback from participants, the organizations, and herself to reflect on the programs offered and their effectiveness – for example, does this program spark joy?

It was handy to learn how Wolfe selects the books she reads to adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities. While picture books are a hit, it’s important that the story of the book isn’t too “kid-ish,” as the participants enjoy stories that they can relate to at their current stage of life. Wolfe even created some picture books of her own to fit her expectations! These books are used at Wolfe’s book club at LIFE Adult Day Academy, and because the participants there have fewer support needs than some do at other facilities, they spend most of their time reading. Wolfe explained that every book club is different depending on the needs of the individuals, which is why it’s important to set guidelines early on and get a feel for what each group requires. For example, some books clubs spend more time coloring, playing games and musical instruments, and completing crafts rather than reading due to the needs of the participants.

Wolfe walked us through a variety of programs her library offers in partnership with other organizations. I really enjoyed learning about the All Abilities Club! At this club, a book is always read in addition to various crafts and activities for participants. For example, Wolfe included a slide in her presentation about “Superhero Day” at the All Abilities Club, where they read a superhero book, completed superhero trivia, and did the Hokey Pokey superhero style. A superhero-themed photobooth and props were included, as was an area dedicated to sensory crafts and other fun activities. I really appreciate how many examples and resources Wolfe provided us with, as I feel it gave me a firm foundation to build a program on at my own library. Not to mention the last half of her presentation was all about getting started at our libraries!

I can’t wait to utilize the resources Rebecca Wolfe has provided me with. Creating programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities is something our library needs to do, and Wolfe’s presentation has given me ample resources to do so! It was just what I was hoping to experience at the PLA Conference.

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