As many of my neurodiverse friends know, April is AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH.
Being neurodiverse myself, and being a librarian, of course, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by… I just had to come up with a list of wonderful books for the occasion. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I decided to branch out on all spectrums of neurodiversity.
So, without further ado, here are over 100 book recommendations, ranging from children's picture books and middle-grade stories, teen and young adult fiction and adult reads!
I hope everyone had an amazing summer! The Children’s Librarians had a splash with our theme: OCEANS OF POSSIBILITIES! But now it’s back to school. Speaking of school… today, I’m sharing some homeschool updates.
As you probably know from my previous blog entries, I host a homeschool group for the families in the community of Sumner County Tennessee, in connection with the Hendersonville Public Library of Tennessee, where I work as a Children’s Librarian.
Working as a Children’s Librarian, and having a professional history of childcare and homeschool education, I knew I wanted to create a program that would provide a safe environment for homeschool families while keeping money in their pockets. In other words: FREE. But, what exactly was it that these families were looking for?
I started brainstorming.
I took polls.
I asked people in our community what they needed. What they wanted.
And after some heavy research, I came to a decision. I wanted to create a Homeschool Group where families could relax, cross collaborate, talk freely, and share information and kids could connect, make friends, and learn in a fun natural way, free of forced group activities, time restrictions, or formatted rules. I wanted a hands on learning experience that was child driven. I wanted a STEAM Homeschool Group!
In December of 2021, STEAM Homeschool Group was just a bright shimmering dream. And in January 2022, it became a reality! Of course, no one showed up for that very first meeting. Starting a new program takes time to build members. And besides, January is too cold! Nobody wants to start something new in the wintertime. But, little by little we grew in number.
Fast forward a few months to August 2022.
I’m happy to announce that our monthly meet for August, 2022, we had a jaw-dropping 40 homeschool family members join us for our STEAM Homeschool Group!
The kids had a wonderful time exploring the STEAM tables and the parents were thrilled to pick up their free school books and resources. From our free resource corner, we had pre-packed leveled readers, vocabulary readers, educational honor book packs (science and social studies), and teacher handbooks with corresponding homework and lesson plans. Several appreciative families expressed their gratitude for the provisions provided by the Hendersonville Public Library of Tennessee.
All in all, it was a fantastic day! We’re looking forward to our next monthly meet. If you’d like to find out how to sign up, please visit our the Hendersonville Public Library of Sumner County page on Facebook.
Thanks for reading and happy homeschool wishes!
To stay up to date with me, your friendly neighborhood librarian, you can follow my Instagram page @chelseasworldofbooks
It’s been a little while since I’ve made a post. Here’s what I’ve been up to…
For the past few months I’ve been gathering information, doing research, attending webinars, and working vigorously toward starting a non-profit Homeschool Group for families in need in my community. And I’m happy to announce, it has been a great success!
I’m so excited to share this news with you, so let’s dive right in!
What is Homeschool Group?
Homeschool Group is a place where families can come together and socialize, and kids can engage in self-paced, hands-on learning in a relaxed and creative environment. Right now, my group is open to ages 7-10, but I may look at expanding those age brackets as time goes on and I get a better feel for the specific needs of my community.
Where and when is Homeschool Group hosted? How can I attend?
Great question! Homeschool Group is being hosted in the Hendersonville Public Library in Tennessee. This group is held on the first Monday of each month at 2 PM. Sign-up sheets can be found in the Children’s area. For other cool events we have going on, check out our Facebook page or Instagram feed for updates and calendar info!
My personal goal with Homeschool Group is to inspire creativity and encourage social emotional learning while exposing children to the five elements of STEAM education; science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
Around the room I have activity tables set up for kids to visit, imagine, and explore the wonders of reading, science, building, writing, creating, socializing, inventing, and playing!
Each of our tables is inspired by STEAM concepts, and is designed to encourage creative thinking and problem solving, enhance motor skills and social-emotional learning, and inspire children to find connections and explore the realm of imagination in a safe and fun environment.
Throughout the building process of this project, I was able to get some fabulous inspiration and ideas from several webinars, a few that I will mention here.
The two that stood out among the rest were STEAM in the Public Library: Programs & Services for Children and Creative Spaces and Family Engagement in Libraries, both available on Webjunction. Now, for those of you who may not know this, in addition to being a children’s book writer, I am also a Children’s Librarian. And, being homeschooled for the majority of my childhood, I have extensive knowledge of what it’s like to be in that position. How hard it can be to make connections within the community. Finding the right resources. Finding places to go. And forget about costs! You can’t find a “cheap” homeschooling program or event to participate in, and free? Free is unheard of. Everything costs something, and most often, it’s a higher price than the average family is looking to spend. Especially when you have more than one child. And that’s not a slight at pricing. It’s very possible that the price is justified and appropriate for whatever services are being offered, but nonetheless, many families simply can’t afford it.
So naturally, coming from a place of understanding, I wanted to offer a service to these families that wouldn’t dip into their pockets. And after some well thought out planning and a trial run, we were finally up and running!
Back to the wonderful Webinars I was able to enjoy. Here are a few of the notes I took from Creative Spaces and Family Engagement in Libraries, that really made me think about why art is such an important role in a child’s life.
The arts are not just expressive and effective. They are deeply cognitive. The arts develop essential thinking tools:
Pattern recognition and development.
Mental representations of the observed/imagined.
Symbolic and metaphorical representations.
Abstraction from complexity.
Cross wiring of brain areas.
Engagement with an art trains the brain to FOCUS, improving learning
* Interest in an art form leads to sustained attention when practicing that art form.
* Engaging in art involves resolving conflicts among competing possible responses.
* The ability to resolve conflict among competing responses is also a crucial aspect of attention training.
Arts integration improves learning
Studies consistently show:
* Greater emotional investment in classes.
* Work more diligently and learn from each other.
* Parents become more involved.
* Teachers collaborate more.
* Increased cross-curricular learning.
* Curriculum becomes more authentic, hands-on and project-based.
Yes, yes, YES, to all of the above! If you don’t believe this to be true, I suggest taking a look at my book, ADHD and Me. Yep, shameless self-promo. But I wouldn’t try to sell you if I didn’t think it’s true. And I happen to know it is because it was inspired by a real young lady, who went through the same everyday challenges as Malory. Who was that young lady? Me.
About the book: ADHD and Me is an SEL (social-emotional learning) book about a young girl named Malory who has ADHD. Throughout her neurodiverse journey, she is encouraged to express herself using art, by her art teacher Ms. Julie, who was diagnosed as a young girl with Autism. With the help of her fabulous support system, including friends and family, Malory is able to find the joys in life and embrace her differences.
Now for my notes on STEAM in the Public Library: Programs & Services for Children with guest speaker Amy Koester and blogger, “THE SHOW ME LIBRARIAN.”
A little bit about Amy. Amy is a Learning Experiences Manager of a Public Library. She serves as a vice president of ASLC, and she’s a big supporter of her library and community. To see more about her click here.
Amy is a kindred spirit and fellow supporter of all things STEAM. And, her blog is simply AMAZING. Here is a link to visit her blog, THE SHOW ME LIBRARIAN.
So, a few things that I took away from this webinar are listed below.
American children are lagging behind other countries when it comes to creative thinking.
School and life success isn’t just about reading.
Creativity is a top work skill. Today, big companies are looking for outside-of-the box thinkers and problem solvers. It is a highly valued and sought after trait in today’s workforce. And understandably so. Children who are adept learners and creative problem solvers statistically fair better in all avenues of life.
Now, a few of the suggestions that Amy gives are:
Set up activity stations (check!)
Observation station (check-check!)
Sensory lights (FUN!)
Glow in the dark (Who doesn’t love glow in the dark stuff?)
Grow plants (Check!)
Root gardens (Fantastic idea)
Incorporate living things (100%)
Butterflies/ant farms- and tie in books that fit your experiment! (yes!) While we are on that topic, see if you can sprinkle in non-fiction books too!
Use recyclables (ALWAYS!)
A few other helpful tips to make your programming fun and engaging for your young participants:
Encourage them to make something.
Get your hands dirty!
Include things that will involve motor skills.
Make STEAM displays fun: one suggestion Amy gave was a globe! A globe is great because kids can both look at it AND play with it. It spins!
And last but not least, give children the tools to succeed!
Regulating consistency can be as simple as responding to situations and actions regarding house rules, in the same way, every time. It is very important that whatever you decide on, that you maintain it. This involves setting a goal and sticking to it.
Example of NOT responding consistently to situations or actions:
Last week, Tommy asked if he could have dessert before dinner, and the reply was, “You know the house rules. Dessert is for after dinner, only.” This week when Tommy asked the same question, the reply was different. Why is this a problem? By giving a new reply, it creates an inconsistency with the house rules stated the previous week. Children, like adults, need stability to thrive. By not following through with the guidelines that you have provided, you are depriving your child of that stability.
*Of course, in life, there will always be exceptions. Changes and unexpected circumstances are inevitable. That being said, if your routine must change, be consistent about explaining to your children the reasons why it must change, and preferably, express this change before it takes place.
Example: “Next week, when Grandma comes to visit, you will be able to have dessert before dinner. This is an exception to our house rule, and after Grandma goes back home, we will continue having dessert after dinner.”
By explaining the situation beforehand, you have acknowledged the change prior to it being made. This allows the child to anticipate it. Not only that, but you have also made the transition clear. Once Grandma goes back home, things will go back to normal. This helps the child to understand the boundaries of the house rules so that there are no uncertainties.
Establishing trust is the cornerstone of importance when it comes to creating a healthy support system for your child.
One of the best ways you can establish trust with your child is by making sure to respect his/her preferences and boundaries. Each child is different, so each child will display his/her preferences and boundaries in different ways.
Example of a child displaying preferences/boundaries: Father comes home from work and gently pats child’s head. The child frowns and pulls away. The father asks, “why did you pull away?” The child responds, “I don’t like when my head is touched.” The father nods, “Okay, I’ll remember that.” The following day, the father comes home from work and greets the child with a smile. Instead of touching his child, he asks, “How was your day today?” The child smiles and replies, “It was good.”
What do we learn from this scenario?
The child is sensitive to physical touch. They displayed this by pulling away. Instead of ignoring this, the father asked a follow-up question to get further information to better understand the child’s perspective. When the child responded that they did not like their head being touched, how did the father respond? Did he force his child to conform to his own level of comfort and boundaries toward physical affection? No.
After the child expressed their boundary and level of comfort, the father took note of their preference. The following day, when he arrived home from work, he made a point of respecting his child’s boundaries. What is the result? The child now feels a level of increased comfort toward the father. By respecting his child’s sensory boundary, he has established trust.
Another way to create a healthy support system for your child is to make yourself available. By making yourself available to your child, you show them that you value them with your time. This reassures them of their importance, not only to you but as individuals. (This also helps boost their self-esteem.)
Example of making yourself available: Mother is making dinner in the kitchen. Her son comes up to her with something important. “Mom, I need to talk to you.” “Can it wait?” Mom says. “No, I need to talk to you right now.” What do you do?
The truth is, sometimes, the answer needs to be, “not right now.” If you are in the middle of something, like cooking dinner, and you are dealing with time-sensitive things, sometimes, you cannot provide your child with undivided attention at that exact moment. That being said, there are ways to go about this to maintain a healthy relationship with your child that both show that you value them and that their feelings and thoughts are important both to you and in general.
Example of how to respond if you CAN’T talk right now: Pause from what you are doing and give direct eye contact (in some cases, where appropriate, you can establish focus by gently placing your hands on your child’s shoulders.) “I’m very busy right now cooking. If I try to handle dinner and our discussion at the same time, I may burn the food or not be able to focus fully on what you are saying. I would like to hear what you have to say and give you my full attention. As soon as I am done here, I will sit down with you at the table, and we will talk. Okay?”
Key points about this response:
Mom gave direct eye contact and focused on the child, validating their self-esteem and expressing genuine interest in what they had to say. Why is this important? Because this reassures the child that mom cares about what they have to say.
Mom didn’t say, “maybe later.” Instead, she gave a definite response, “we will talk,” and she even set a specific time and location, “as soon as I’m done here, I will sit down with you at the table.” What does this do for the child? This establishes stability. They have a definite answer.
And finally, mom gave an explanation as to why she could not provide undivided attention at that moment. By doing this, Mom was teaching her child that “time and place” are important and relative to sharing thoughts. This is something that all children will need to learn as they grow. By giving this explanation to your child when they are young, it will help prepare them for adulthood without inflicting damage on their self-esteem. Rather than feeling confused about why they couldn’t have their parent’s attention at that moment, they will understand that it is not personal; rather, it was simply not the right time and place.
By implementing these three things into your child’s life, it will significantly increase your child’s level of comfort and trust in their support system.
This event theme will be surrounding children’s education, empowerment, mental health and well-being.
Join us for our special Children’s Learning Event in Gallatin Public Library! Guest speakers in attendance: Children’s Book Author, Chelsea Radojcic-Dicicco, Author and Autism Advocate, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, and Children’s Crisis Counselor, Jason Scruggs.
10 AM : “Neurodiverse Learning” (given by guest speaker, Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco)
11 AM : “Acknowledging, Assessing and Addressing the Emotional Well-Being of Your Child” (given by guest speaker, Jason Scruggs)
12 PM : “Empowering Our Kids Today” (given by guest speaker, Mary Jackson)
This event will be hosted at no charge, and open to the public. We encourage parents, and educators to come in and visit! We have lots of fun freebies and resources to offer, so if you’re in the area, stop by and say hello. We look forward to seeing you there!
The first guest speaker, Children’s Literature Author, Ms. Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco, will be discussing the topic ‘NEURODIVERSE LEARNING’ at 10:00 AM. Afterward, she will be participating in an author signing of her book, ADHD and Me. (Available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Lulu Bookstore, and Kindle.)
Resources, Free Stuff, and Merchandise
Informative banner will be displayed at the booth, featuring the topics: SUPPORT SYSTEM, LEARNING DIFFERENCES, and MESSAGE TO PARENTS, CAREGIVERS, AND EDUCATORS.
There will also be:
Spiral-lined “embrace your differences” school notebooks
And last but certainly not least, there will be:
FREE INTERACTIVE LESSON PLANS
Lesson plans will be made available for educators or homeschoolers in attendance, grades K-3rd. The curriculum includes games, projects, and learning examples designed for a group or in the classroom. Hurry in and get your free copies while supplies last!
For anyone interested in author interviews, having an in-person or virtual reading, or Q&A with the author, there will be a signup sheet provided at her booth.
Our next guest speaker, Children’s Crisis Counselor, Mr. Jason Scruggs, will be delivering his discourse on the topic ‘ACKNOWLEDGING, ASSESSING, AND ADDRESSING THE EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING OF YOUR CHILD’ at 11:00 AM. Mr. Scruggs’s wealth of experience and knowledge is invaluable, and we look forward with great anticipation to his presentation! He will also have a table set up with information for families and will be available to meet and greet patrons and answer questions throughout the day. Scruggs is an educator, professor, and counselor with two Master’s Degrees and works for the Children’s Crisis Stabilization Unit in Bowling Green, KY.
Our final guest speaker, Special Needs Advocate, Author, and Autism Ambassador, Ms. Mary Jackson, will be delivering her talk on ‘EMPOWERING OUR KIDS TODAY’ at 12:00 PM. Ms. Jackson will also be participating in a book signing at her booth and will have other resources and pamphlets from local branches from our learning community with her as well.
Ms. Jackson is the co-author of Poolicious book series, as well as the co-founder and co-host of The Writers Corner Live TV Show and the Special Needs TV Show on Facebook and YouTube. To find out more about Ms. Jackson, please visit her website at www.maryejackson.com. We are looking forward with deep enthusiasm to seeing you all!