Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders [Review]

Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Lesley S. J. Farmer
Chicago: ALA Editions, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1181-5, softcover
264 pages, $35.00

reviewed by Gena MarkerMarker - Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Libraries serve all types of people and knowing how to provide services to those with special needs is an important part of any librarian’s job. A growing number of youth in America have a developmental disorder that falls within the autism spectrum: autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive development disorder. For library personnel who work with youth who have autism spectrum disorders, L.S.J. Farmer’s Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders is a must-have tool.

No matter if you work with youth in a school or public library, Farmer provides useful suggestions for every type of scenario. From an introductory-level understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) to teaching youth with ASDs and behavior management techniques, Farmer paints a comprehensive picture of how librarians can help youth with ASDs. Of particular interest to both school and public librarians is how to provide a positive social structure to help youth with ASDs develop social skills and feel comfortable in social settings within the library environment. Farmer points out that one way to achieve this goal within a school library setting is to allow youth with ASDs to serve as library aides, and that, “being a library aide should have a social dimension to strengthen group identity and foster cohesion” (139).  All types of library programs, from literacy-centered activities to maker-oriented ones can involve youth with ASDs and help them to foster new social skills. Farmer also provides tips regarding how to navigate the sometimes emotionally-charged world of youth with ASDs, including how to help them self-manage their emotions and move toward emotional growth and independence.

In addition, Farmer provides lists of resources that librarians can use, both with youth with ASDs, as well as those who work with them. Training ideas and applicable resources about how librarians can incorporate the principles of universal design when working with youth with ASDs, will help library staff provide better services to this special population. A historical and legal framework of how federal laws apply to those with ASDs, and how such laws affect libraries and library services, is a much-needed guide for all library workers.

Lastly, the appendix of resources (consisting mostly of websites), bibliography, and glossary, provide an extension to the many helpful tips and resources presented by Farmer. Overall, this book is a practical tool that libraries of all types and sizes should make available for staff training purposes, so that youth with ASDs are provided with the best possible library services.

Gena Marker is a Teacher-Librarian at Centennial High School, Joint School District No. 2 in Meridian.

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