Aug 18, 2023 - News

A library designed with autism in mind

The glass walls and windows flood the building with natural light. Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

When Indy's newest library opens tomorrow, it will be the first in the state to be a Certified Autism Center.

Driving the news: Staff at the new Fort Ben Branch completed an autism-specific training program to receive the international certification.

Why it matters: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 36 children nationwide has been identified with autism spectrum disorder.

  • "So many times people with autism are asked to change because their behaviors are different and unacceptable to some people," said Ali Brown, a City-County Council member and founder of the Indy Autism Project. "So, what we do is instead ask the government and systems to change to make it more accepting of people with autism."
A tiny greenhouse inside a library
The kid section of the library is on the opposite end of the adult area to keep noise disruption to a minimum.

Details: The building was also designed with the needs of neurodivergent visitors in mind.

  • It offers a comfort room, sensory kits and other resources to enhance accessibility.
  • The branch is stocked with 50,000 new books, DVDs and other materials.
  • Plus, there's a garden-themed children's play area and a fireplace in the adult section.

What they're saying: Branch manager Shelby Peak said the training helped her staff understand how to create a more welcoming experience for neurodivergent individuals and their families, from regular interactions to specific programming, like sensory-friendly story time.

  • "Having that label on there makes it a judgment-free zone," Peak said. "Families know that if they come to this, they're going to be accepted no matter what happens."

If you go: Fort Ben Public Library, 9330 E. 56th St., opens to the public at 10am Saturday.


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