community events

Monroe County Public Library offers autism-friendly programs


Bloomington residents with autistic children gather at the Monroe County Public Library on Thursday evening to enjoy an autistic friendly showing of “Mulan”. Autistic sensory films create a safe environment for autistic children with fixed lighting and softer sounds. Andrew Williams and Andrew Williams Buy Photos

After realizing a need for more autism-friendly resources, the Monroe County Public Library has implemented two different programs that make up its relatively new autism series.

The autism series includes two different programs. The first is a series of autism-friendly movie showings, which are for anyone 5 years and older. These are unique because, unlike a real movie theater, the lights are on, people are encouraged to walk around and talk, and the sound isn’t as loud.

The second program is sensory story time for kids ages 3-6, which has lower lighting, plain walls and soothing music to create an interactive and educational experience.

“The library is always interested in meeting community needs, and we look for ways to offer unique programs not offered anywhere else,” said Michael Hoerger, communications and marketing manager.

The 2011 Pew Internet report found 27 percent of Americans are living with a disability that interferes with the activities of daily life. The goal of the library’s programs is to provide a place for people with disabilities to go experience events in a setting that is formatted more toward their needs.

Although these programs are geared toward people on the autism spectrum, they are open to anyone.

“Both programs are offered once a month, and there are always a lot of people at them,” Hoerger said.

These programs were started a couple years ago after families of autistic children requested an alternative to the more structured format of movie theaters, which prevented them from going.

The Monroe County Public Library recently received the Indiana Libraries Federation Award. Several individuals wrote recommendation letters for the library as part of the selection process for the award. One of them was Kristie Brown Lofland, an educational consultant for the Indiana Resource Center for Autism.

“The Monroe County Public Library has become a leader in our community in extending a welcoming atmosphere and improved services to individuals with disabilities and should be awarded support by any possible means,” 
Lofland said.

Another recommendation letter came from Cristina C. Wray, librarian for the Center for Disability Information and Referral.

“I was deeply impressed by their commitment to providing quality inclusive service to people of all disabilities,” Wray said.

With these new programs, the library was trying to fill a need that needed to be met in the community, and it has received many positive comments from families who use it.

The Monroe County Public Library is always looking to learn about new needs in the community and find different ways to meet them.

“We hit the mark,” Hoerger said.

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