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Certified autism center opens in library as first in Indiana

Multicultural Spotlight: Autism center opens in new Fort Ben library

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The new Indianapolis Public Library-Fort Ben Branch is the only certified autism center in Indiana.

Representatives say the design makes for an equitable and accessible space.

The library fills a service gap for people living on the northeast side and the far east side. The idea of designing a library centered around autism came from City-County Council Member Ali Brown and her work with the Indy Autism Project. She hopes it can light a spark for more places like this in Indianapolis.

The grand opening for the public will be at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Brown said, “I have a 6-1/2-year-old who is autistic, and going into spaces, particularly spaces that are considered quiet spaces can be a bit scary for us, because my son stems.”

Brown helped envision this library. Funding from Indy Autism Project and Easterseals Crossroads helped make it a reality, providing the necessary certification training for staff.

“When you talk about building a better city, you’re not talking four years from now, you’re talking 40 years from now,” Brown said. “Bringing the collective space where we can all grow and learn together, and build a community.”

All library staff members have undergone autism certification. There are sensory items, bags and more around the library, along with a built-in comfort room, but the accessibility goes further than that.

Shelby Peak, branch manager of library, said, “We paid a lot of close attention to our layout and spacing of the branch. To make sure that everything is a good place so everyone can get around.”

“How can we be more inclusive for those with sensory needs? What programs can we adapt,” Peak said.

Brown says this is the prototype for Indiana, and hopes to secure funding to help transform the other 24 public library branches into certified autism centers.

Also, the Fort Ben library’s autism center offers a diverse collection in languages, including Spanish, Korean, French and Haitian Creole. With roughly 20% of the neighboring population Spanish-speaking, signage in the library is in both English and Spanish.