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Fort Ben library creates a space with special attention to people with autism

The library offers resources for people on the autism spectrum
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Posted at 9:03 AM, Apr 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 09:34:11-04

LAWRENCE — A mother's push for acceptance for all people on the spectrum has started at a space typically designed to stay quiet.

The Fort Ben Library in Lawrence is home to the first certified autism center at a library in Indiana, and it's really taken off.

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"It's so important. 1 in 36 people is autistic is the estimate right now which puts it at three percent of Marion County," City-County Councilor Ali Brown said.

Brown's 7-year-old Dylan is in that three percent.

"He is the best guy in the world and at two and half he got his autism diagnosis," Brown said.

For Brown it didn't change anything for her, but it was different for her son.

"All the sudden I saw these barriers pop up around his daily life and what his future is going to be like," Brown said.

Brown knew she had the resources to help Dylan, but recognized that's not the case for all families.

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"The only time great change happens in his world is when somebody sees it differently and autistic people are blessed with the ability to see the world differently from everybody else," Brown said.

Brown created the Indy Autism Project with a goal of creating a city that sees strengths in differences.

"We want to make everything accessible to everybody, because people with autism are asked to mask all the time which may be hiding their stims or forcing eye contact when that can physically be painful for them," Brown said.

The library is the organizations latest project in the community.

They provide sensory bags that patrons can check out at the library, filled with fidgets and other sensory items including headphones.

The Fort Ben library in Lawrence has transformed to be a space that all are welcome.

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The attention to detail for people on the autism spectrum also includes a comfort room.

"It's a quiet room, the lights are dim they're not florescent," Brown said.

The comfort room is filled with sensory items that can provide a space for people to step away if they get overstimulated.

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A weighted stuffed animal, fidgets and even a rocking chair are in the room.

"Autism is this giant spectrum. The big thing is if you have met one person with autism, you met one person with autism. It presents differently in every person who has it. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Think of it more of like a circle than a straight line of being more or less autistic," Brown said.

The staff is also trained on Picture Exchange Communication States (PECS) boards.

PECS boards are a form of image communication for non verbal people.

There is also a special dedicated space to books about autism or written by autistic authors, and sensory friendly events.

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For Brown it's changes she hopes more spaces make.

"When we do this together, and we make a space that is more accepting of autistic people, we make a space that is more accepting of all of us. And it's never going to be done until it's something that is just accepted, welcomed, and treated as a normal part of life," Brown said.

The library will also have a special section all month long for autism acceptance month with additional books pulled on understanding and learning about autism.

The space even took their space an extra step by providing an adult sized changing table for anyone who may need it.