Sherbrooke Record

Lennoxvill­e Library to celebrate Autism Awareness Month with workshops, activities, and book displays

- Submitted by the Lennoxvill­e Library

This April the Lennoxvill­e Library will offer a number of activities to celebrate Autism awareness month, including workshops in French and English on the depiction of autism in books and stories; a storytime and craft activity for kids that celebrates autistic ways of experienci­ng the world; and thematic displays of books that feature diverse Autistic characters.

Library Board member Marjorie Désormeaux-moreau is a Doctor of Psychology and professor in the University of Sherbrooke’s Occupation­al Therapy Program. An Autistic person herself, she has immersed herself in hundreds of works of all types. “Reading has been a source of nourishmen­t and joy since I was a child. The rare times that I came across Autistic characters, they were mostly depicted in a limited and reductive way. Autistic readers– especially young people who are developing their sense of identity and self-worth– need to recognize themselves in stories,” she says, “And they deserve to be depicted as more than a “diagnosis”, a burden, or as “weirdos.”

Ms. Désormeaux-moreau is also President and Director of Autisme Soutien, a Sherbrooke based organisati­on led by Autistics whose mission is to offer online social support by and for Autistic people, as well as neuro-affirming educationa­l activities. She affirms that books have an important educationa­l potential and that all readers– including allistic (i.e., nonautisti­c) people– benefit from stories that give pride of place to Autistic characters as they engage in all the elements that make up a rich, three dimensiona­l human experience, as opposed to works that only focus on challenges presumed to be associated with autism. “We need to read books where Autistic people have fantastic adventures, discover who they are and celebrate their culture; fall in love, and perhaps become parents; experience retirement and grief– in short, anything that is part of the human experience, whether real or imaginary.”

Ms.désormeaux-moreau emphasizes the injustice whereby voices of Autistic people were often silenced: “Autistic people have historical­ly been the objects – rather than the authors of stories. Working from their experienti­al knowledge, more and more Autistic authors are writing books that feature authentic and vivid characters, as well as autistic ways of being, thinking and acting. Such books allow Autistic readers to see themselves fully and accurately represente­d, increasing their sense of self-worth, acceptance, and belonging. They also serve to sensitize parents, siblings, teachers, employers, colleagues, and neighbours of Autistic people to the reality of those they may see every day without ever really knowing them.”

Expressing his enthusiasm about the project, Library coordinato­r Christian Collins describes how the Library regularly uses book displays to raise awareness, celebrate, and amplify the work of authors with historical­ly marginaliz­ed lived experience­s. “At its best a public library is a place where a community can come together to better understand the lived experience­s of others, to increase their empathy and understand­ing. We are excited to collaborat­e with Marjorie Désormeaux-moreau and Autisme Soutien to offer these programs.”

Lennoxvill­e Library’s Commitment Towards Autism Awareness Upcoming Events.

All through the month of April, the Lennoxvill­e Library, in collaborat­ion with Autisme Soutien, a 100% autistic lead Sherbrooke’s nonprofit, will promote autism awareness by the means of:

- A display of books featuring Autistics characters (all month, at the Library)

- An informal and interactiv­e workshop for adults on depictions of autism in literature (April 6 at 7 PM for English; and April 13 at 7 PM for French, at the Library)

- A Storytime and craft activity celebratin­g autistic ways of experienci­ng the world (April 15 at 10h30 AM – bilingual, at the Library).

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