On 2 April every year, the world comes together to raise awareness about autism and to help improve the quality of life of those with autism. As Qatar National Library aims to be one of the world's preeminent centers of learning, it fosters an inclusive learning environment that caters to diverse groups of people. People with autism are one of these vital groups who we value and support through our Library services, events, and programs. To commemorate World Autism Awareness Day, we are highlighting the library's efforts, special resources, and dedicated facilities and tools that we provide for children and young adults with autism in an attempt to raise awareness about autism and offer assistance to those who can utilize these resources.
The Library has been a safe space for those with autism or even their caregivers by conducting events relevant to them or cater for their needs. We have offered an array of workshops and programs ranging from effective sensory integration at home, the art of storytelling for children with learning difficulties, and even apps for people with autism and their parents.
World Autism Day is also about collaboration between different entities, which is why we are always working on extending our partnership to collaborate with different autism centers and schools in Qatar, and we are consistently receiving their feedback to improve our services and to learn more about their needs. For example, we have conducted a series of programs for parents collaboratively with TLC (The Learning Center), one of Qatar Foundation’s centers for people with learning difficulties. The programs were designed to help parents support their children with autism at home. Moreover, we have also teamed up with Renad Academy, Qatar Foundation’s autism school, to train our library staff and to get certified as an autism-friendly environment. Recently, we have developed the Enabling Kits to make books and sensory materials inside the library more accessible and fun for children with different special needs including autism. As for our facilities, we recently established "The Sensory Room" which is a key addition in the library that is specially designed to combine a range of stimuli to help individuals develop and engage their senses. It can help those who have learning difficulties, developmental disabilities, or sensory impairments to learn and interact with the world around them, but in a safe environment that builds their confidence and ability. To book the Sensory Room, click here.
In regards to young adults with autism, we provide games and sensory tools suitable for them such as fidget sensory toys and puzzles, building sticks, building blocks, in addition to a selection of educational games. We also offer several online and physical books and resources that can be used by young adults with autism or their caregivers. The Library also hosted several pre-arranged visits of young adults with autism where our specialized staff conducted workshops and activities tailored to them.
We will always continue our efforts towards an inclusive and supportive library to those with autism. We will also seek to improve our already existing strategies because we value equal opportunities and we will work to continue being a safe and nurturing environment for people with autism, in order to truly be a library for everyone.
Here are some suggested online resources that would be useful for children and young adults with autism: