Creating an Inclusive Teen Game Night by Michelle Biwer
A number of teens on the autism spectrum are frequent patrons and volunteer at the library, but I knew that I was not seeing them attend my programs. After talking with some of them I realized the programs I offered were not suiting their interests and needs. We came up with the idea of “Friends Game Night,” a program where special needs teens and young adults are invited to play games with the Teen Advisory Board. It started off small, but we now have a regular group of teens with special needs and TAB members who come every month and love hanging out with each other.
Our special needs audience is a diverse one with different levels of cognitive and physical abilities and at first we were not sure which board games would appeal to most of the group. Trouble has become a huge hit because it is easy to learn, is very tactile, and doesn’t require strong verbal communication skills. Apples to Apples and Bingo are also very popular.
I’ll be honest, at first I thought this program would be more of an education for the teens than for me. I thought it would be good for all of them to learn how to connect with people who may be different than themselves. While that was true, I found I also had to overcome some of my own biases. Recently, a teen who was blind attended game night and I realized the library had no accessible games for people with vision impairments. We worked with what we had that night (Trouble is somewhat accessible) but recently purchased Braille versions of Scrabble, Bingo, and Uno with the hope of purchasing more in the future.
EnableMart and 64 Oz Games are just a few places where you can purchase Braille versions of popular games. Meeple Like Us reviews the accessibility of games by looking at what physical and cognitive abilities are needed to play various games.
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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