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Libraries and Autism

1 in 54: Autism Spectrum Resources for Families

NEWS!  The U.S. Center for Disease Control has released its most recent statistics for autism rates.  The new statistics show 1 in 54 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum.  The rate is 4.3 times higher among boys than girls. The rate for ASD in boys is 1 in 34. The rate for girls is 1 in 145. (2016)

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 54 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum. Youth Services Staff has compiled a list of autism spectrum resources for families. The best place to start, if you suspect your child might be on the spectrum, is to have your child screened. The earlier your child starts therapies, the better. If your child is under age three there are two local agencies, South Bay Early Intervention and Thom Anne Sullivan Center, that provide screening services. If your child is age three or older, contact the Lowell Public Schools for assistance.

Information contained on this web page does not constitute library endorsement of a treatment, agency or advocacy group. The library maintains that it is up to the parent/legal guardian to determine proper treatment for his/her child. This web page is solely a place of information for the huge array of materials related to Autism Spectrum Disorders.

If your family uses a service or has a favorite autism spectrum web site that is not listed, please let us know so we can share with others in the community. Contact Molly Hancock, Coordinator of Youth Services at


April is Autism Awareness Month!

In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, the library is offering Grab and Go Autism craft bags.
The bags contain a picture frame puzzle piece craft and other related autism awareness materials.
These bags are for children in Kindergarten and older and all families are welcome to reserve bags.
Supplies are limited and sign up is required. Reserve your bag by clicking here
or calling the Children’s Desk at 978-674-1529.

We would like to thank the Friends of the Pollard Library for generously providing funding for these bags.


Hi, Everyone!
I have filmed a storytime for Special Needs Families and posted to the Pollard Library’s Youtube page. Join us for stories, songs, and a little moving and grooving!

VIRTUAL Family Yoga for Kids with Special Needs
Join us for this fun, free, family activity!
We’ll learn yoga poses and activities with gently-paced movement and practice breathing techniques for settling down and feeling centered. This will be a calmly taught class free from background music or layered stimulation.

The instruction for this class is tailored to 6-12 year old students with special needs who will be practicing with an adult. Siblings encouraged to join alongside!
No prior yoga experience or yoga mat is required.
Sign up is required. Participate in one or both sessions but you must sign up for each session you plan to attend.

Saturday, April 10, 11:30 AM – 12:05 PM
Tuesday, April 20, 10:00 AM -10:35 AM

Click here to register or call the Children’s Department at 978-674-1529.

A Resource for Families/Caregivers During the Coronavirus Emergency
Understood is an organization whose purpose is to provide resources for special needs people and their supporters to help them navigate the world. They have provided online resources for special needs people and their families to explain the Coronavirus and what is happening as a result of the virus. This information is helpful for all families, not just special needs families.
Understood also provide some tips about activities to keep kids busy at home.  Click here for this information.

Looking for a social story to help explain novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? Download a social story to help explain what’s happening

School Closure & Special Education Rights for Massachusetts Families: Update on COVID-19
The Special Needs Advocacy Network of Massachusetts has created a Free Webinar featuring legal and educational experts from across the Commonwealth sharing updates on special education procedures, law and more.
The webinar, titled “Update on COVID-19: School Closure and Special Education Rights“ was created on March 27th in partnership with the Federation for Children with Special Needs. There are also free handouts and Power Points of this webinar to download and share with your community.
To access the YouTube webinar click here.
To access the webinar’s handouts and Powerpoints click here.

During this time of pandemic, there are several online and virtual resources for special needs families. The online resource, SPED Child and Teen of Massachusetts, lists these resources.

Exceptional Lives is an organization that works to help special needs families find the resources and support they need. During this time of pandemic, their web site provides COVID 19 related resources for special needs families. Also included on their site are webinars about providing services such as ABA and speech therapy at home. Click here for more information.

During this challenging time, many special needs families are finding that services for their children are being affected.  Families are often looking for tips on how to provide activities at home that will help their children maintain skills.  This article, written by a speech and language pathologist, contains suggestions of what parents can do at home to help their children with their language skills.

The Federation for Children with Special Needs has a very active FaceBook page.  They regularly post lots of relevant information to assist special needs families.

Notice: The Lowell Police Department has initiated a Safe Watch Program. This program is aimed at individuals who have a disability or condition that would cause them to wander from their safe environment.
The Safe Watch Program proactively gathers pertinent and recent information about the individual. Should a person go missing, the police are immediately prepared to begin an informed search with the goal of finding the person as quickly as possible.
Responsible family members can fill out an online form. The form can also be updated as needed. For more information including a link to the form, click here.

Upcoming Events in the Library

Upcoming Events and Opportunities in the Community

Lowell Special Education Parent Advisory Council (Lowell Sped PAC)
The Lowell Special Education Parent Advisory Council (Sped PAC) is an organization run by parents of children receiving special education services through the Lowell School Department.  It was created to share information about special education and promote understanding between parents and the school department.

Meetings are held the first Thursday of the month October through June at the Stocklosa Middle School. The school is located at 560 Broadway Street. Enter through the door opposite the basketball courts. There is plenty of parking. Meetings begin at 7:00 P.M.
Visitors are always welcome.

All Meetings are on Thursdays

SPED PAC November Meeting
Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 7 PM via ZOOM
Contact the SPEC PAC for ZOOM login information at

Agenda: According to the SPED PAC – “Our meetings right now continue to be geared towards sped department updates and dealing with the remote learning.”

In the event of bad weather or another emergency, meeting cancellations will be announced through email and Facebook. If Lowell Public Schools cancels school, there is no meeting.

Lowell Public Schools
Attn: Sped PAC
155 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA  01852
Tel: (978) 454-1967

Like us on Facebook: Lowellspedpac

Tyngsborough Special Education Parent Advisory Council
Tyngsborough High School Library
36 Norris Rd.
Tyngsborough, MA  01879

Tyngsborough SEPAC Contact Information – E-mail:
For more information about these workshops or the Tyngsborough SEPAC, click here.

UMASS Lowell Center for Autism Research and Education (CARE)
The University of Massachusetts Lowell has a Center for Autism Research and Education (CARE) which focuses on research and education to improve the lives of those with ASD and their families. They conduct research studies related to ASD and provide some services such as an Autism Support Group for parents of young children (up to age 6) on the Autism Spectrum and a monthly social networking program called “The Network” for young people ages 16 – 30 years on the high end of the autism spectrum.  For more information, visit the CARE website.

UMASS Lowell Study – Looking for Participants
Dr. Robai Werunga is conducting a study to determine some of the struggles and challenges facing immigrant families with children with disabilities in Lowell and the Merrimack Valley region. She is looking for parents to participate in an interview. The interview will last approximately 60 minutes and those that participate will receive a $25 gift certificate. The information gathered will be used to design workshops for immigrant families of students with disabilities.
Robai Werunga, PhD
*Research funded by University of Massachusetts, Lowell Internal SEED Grant

“Especially for Me” Free Evenings and Afternoons for Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum

The Discovery Museums
177 Main Street (Route 27)
Acton, Massachusetts 01720
Phone: 978.264.4200

The Especially for Me program offers dedicated hours and free admission for families with children with developmental challenges.  Registration is required.  Click here for more information or to register. *During this time, make sure to contact the museum to see if it is open and if there are special social distancing requirements for guests.

Sensory Friendly Afternoons
1:30 PM – 4:30 PM

Sensory Friendly Evenings
5 PM – 8 PM

Registration is required for these events.
Click here for more information or to register.
*The Especially for Me program is offered in collaboration with Autism Alliance of MetroWest.

Morningstar Access at Boston Children’s Museum
Special Needs children and their families can visit the museum during a time when there are only a few other visitors. The number of guests is limited to 100.
Upcoming Dates:

All guests must pay admission at the Admissions Desk upon arrival.
Non-members: 8.50 per person
Members: Free

Contact: Saki Iwamoto, Health and Wellness Educator
Click here for registration information.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films
Check with the specific theater for showtimes. Dates and times may be subject to change. Click here for more information about this program.

AMC Methuen

AMC Tyngsboro

O’Neil Cinemas
Sensory Friendly Flix: Lowered sound levels and higher house lights
1208 Constitution Ave.
Littleton, MA

A great program for families affected by Autism or other disabilities. See a movie on the big screen with NO loud noises and higher house lights for better visibility. Fun, friendly environment. Select films and showtimes.

Films are on Saturdays at 10 AM but contact the cinema to confirm as dates and times may change.

Sensory Friendly Sundays at the USS Constitution Museum
9 AM – 10 AM
USS Constitution Museum
Building 22
Charlestown Navy Yard
Charlestown, MA 02129
617-426-1812 X 101
On the second Sunday of the month the museum offers a sensory friendly morning in the museum. This event happens before the museum opens to the public. The number of participants is limited to reduce crowding. Special considerations and amenities are provided such as a quiet room and the turning down of lights and sounds.
Registration is required. Click here to register or for more information.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Beyond the Spectrum
Beyond the Spectrum is a specially designed program for children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Beyond the Spectrum Kids (age 8-12)
Classes offered for 8 to 12-year-olds feature a structured gallery tour led by an experienced instructor, followed by a creative art-making workshop. Children must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver. Classes meet one Saturday per month.
Adventures in Art for Children on the Spectrum ages 8 – 12 years
John, Bertram A. and Ronald M. Druker Family Pavilion (Classroom 159)
Please meet the instructors in Room 159 by 10:20 AM.

Classes are on select Saturdays.

Beyond the Spectrum Teen Studio (age 13-18)
Classes offered for 13 to 18-year-olds focus on specific art topics and incorporate discussion, critical inquiry, and sketching in the galleries. Students then work independently on a project with guidance from an experienced instructor. Caregivers and parents are welcome, but are not required to attend. Classes meet one Saturday per month.
For teens ages 13 – 18 years
John, Bertram A. and Ronald M. Druker Family Pavilion (Classroom 159)
Please meet the instructors in Room 159 by 10:20 AM.

Tickets are required for these programs and cost $9 per attendee. Visit the Beyond the Spectrum page for ticket information.

For information about the Beyond the Spectrum program, click here, email, or call 617-369-4027.

Museum of Fine Arts
Sensory Friendly Tours
Occurs on the first Monday and Third Saturday of the Month
10:15 11 AM
For children ages 2 – 4 years
This activity is free with museum admission.
Click here for more information.

New England Aquarium Sensory Inclusive Access
1 Central Wharf
Boston, MA

Care Farming at The Maker Farm
5 Gould Road
Westford, MA 01886

Care farming promotes mental and physical health by combining the care of animals and the natural world with the care of people. On a Care Farm, people, animals, and the earth work together to promote health and well-being. Join, Beth Frankel, LSW, to enjoy the many benefits of the fresh air, outdoors, gardening, and interaction with the farm animals. We will participate in meaningful outdoor and farm activities encouraging increased self confidence, social interaction, and independence.
Group or individual programming available for youth, adults, seniors, special needs, disabled, and underserved populations.
For a list of programs click here.
For additional programming information, please contact Beth Frankel, LSW, at or 978-697-3798.

Launch, Methuen, MA
96A Milk St.
Methuen, MA 01844

Open exclusively to guests with special needs, along with their families
Last Sunday of every month from 6:00PM – 8:00PM
Launch in Methuen, MA wants to be a safe space for our jumpers with special needs. V.I.P. Time is a quieter, private time open exclusively to these jumpers and their families. One parent or guardian gets to jump for free, and siblings are welcome to join in the fun too!

Museum of Science Disability Prototype Tester
The Museum of Science, Boston, seeks people with a variety of abilities and disabilities to help improve the museum offerings, such as exhibits and programs. Those with, but not limited to, sensory, physical, and cognitive disabilities, can be contacted to test new exhibit prototypes and explore the museum.
Interested participants will come to the Museum of Science to interact with exhibit prototypes or explore other existing museum experiences. Testing could last anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes and will always include free admission to the Museum of Science exhibit halls for the day and free parking in the Museum’s garage.
If you would like to help the Museum of Science become more accessible by providing feedback during an upcoming testing session, please fill out this online form.
This form asks for your contact information as well as some details about the group you plan to visit the Museum with. If you prefer to fill out this form over the phone instead of online, please contact Sunewan Chunhasuwan, a Research and Evaluation Assistant, at 617-589-4438. You may also email with any questions at

Support Groups

Parent Support Group
These free meetings are open to anyone parenting a child or adolescent with behavioral or mental health special needs.
The meetings are held in Lowell on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 6 PM – 7:45 PM.  Contact for location.
RSVP: Nancy Collier, Family Support Specialist, 508-688-5739 or
This program is a collaboration between MSPCC, PPAL, CTI and DMH

Transition Planning Group
Meetings are held on the first and third Mondays of the month from 6 PM – 7:45 PM.
CTI Lowell
126 Phoenix Ave., 3rd Floor, Room 3
RSVP: Nancy Collier, 508-688-5739 or
In Collaboration: CTI, MSPCC & PPAL

Support Group for Parents of Children with Special Needs
Pediatrics West, PC
133 Littleton Road
3rd Floor Conference Room
Westford, MA  01886
7 PM – 8:30 PM
Call Alison at 978-577-0414 for more information.

Spanish Support Group
Tower Building
60 Island St., Lawrence, MA
Meets 3rd Friday of the month
9:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Contact: Gloria Ricardi Castillo at 978-624-2301 or
Sponsored by the Northeast Arc

Down Syndrome-Autism Connection Group
DS-Autism Connection (DSAC) is for parents whose children have both Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder. DSAC has 30 active families who meet once monthly by online chat to discuss the issues and challenges unique to the Down Syndrome-Autism community. Experts in the field often present on various topics relating to dual diagnosis. New members are welcome. DSAC is an affiliate of the Massachusetts Down Sydrome Congress. For more information visit the Down Syndrome Autism Connection’s website or email or

Special Summer Camps

Camp Starfish
According to their web page – “Our positive approach, engaging philosophy and overall experience is different. Camp Starfish provides a 1:1 staff-to-camper ratio at all times to enable success, build social skills, teach coping mechanisms, and help children who have difficulty finding success in traditional settings. We are a one-of-a-kind summer camp, year-round support and advocate for children and families.”  Click here for more information.

Autism in the News

From LifeLinks:
Planning for Life After Special Education: Transition Services Online Manual

The Disability Law Center in Boston has revised their manual ‘Planning for Life After Special Education’ and it is available online for FREE. They have made several significant changes, including new information on the following topics:
-Developing appropriate transition services for students with severe developmental disabilities
-Helping your student transition successfully into the adult workforce
-Knowing the various diploma options and determining which option is best for your child

The second edition of this manual also provides revised case summaries, thirteen new informational videos in English, Spanish, and ASL, and information on how to manage public benefits.

This amazing resource is available online for free. If you have a child approaching transition age, this is a must read!

Leading the Way: Autism Friendly Youth Organizations

Autism Speaks has created a guide for community organizations to help them better serve children with autism and their families.  This information is available online.

Autism Speaks has created the online resource, Postsecondary Educational Opportunities.


Autism Blogger – Online Autism Support Group
Accepting Asperger’s Syndrome – This is a crash course to accepting your Asperger’s!

Parents of Special Needs Kids Meet Ups: This is an online resource of groups and meetings in the Boston area. Link: