Kiri Salazar has been bringing her son, Alexei, to the Walker branch of KDL since he was about a year old, sometimes every day. His first stop is typically either the train in KDLville or the shelves that hold Dora the Explorer books.
But it wasn’t until about a year ago that Kiri knew for certain that her son, now 8, could read. Alexei has autism and only in the past year started using special software on a computer tablet to communicate.
“He grew up eating books,” Kiri says with a laugh, “and he’d fall asleep on piles of them, but because he is non-verbal, I never knew for sure how much he was taking in. I’ve always read to him, hoping to instill a love of books even if it wasn’t reading reading them yet. It’s that tangible sense of the potential for it.”
Now she knows for sure. With quick jabs of his index finger, Alexei recently typed a message to his mother about his Halloween costume — this year, an affinity for calendars is inspiring him to transform into “Calendar Man.” When Kiri asks him about his chosen superhero’s superpower, her son’s response seems obvious: “He travels in time.”
KDL staffers have some experience relating to children who have autism. Last year, based on a patron’s recommendation, children’s librarians attended a workshop on working with youngsters with autism. Some KDL librarians visit their local schools to do “sensory storytimes” aimed at children with developmental and physical disabilities. Jacque Viol, youth specialist at the Cascade Township branch, said KDL hopes to offer a sensory storytime that is open to the public in the spring.
“Serving the diverse population of our area includes serving people with special needs,” she said. “Any time you can connect a person with something they enjoy, it’s a positive experience for all involved.”
Posted by: Morgan J.