Education

Fanwood Memorial Library unveils the Monica Reiss Autism Resources Collection

December 13, 2012 at 4:24 PM

In the early morning hours of November 2, 2011 just over one year ago, due to a tragic accident, Fanwood lost a beloved and valued member of our community when Monica Reiss was struck by a car on Midway Avenue.

Now, her memory is honored at the Fanwood Memorial Library with the unveiling of the Monica Reiss Autism Resources Collection. Thanks to contributions made in her name, the library was able to significantly increase their holdings of autism related resources and to purchase a sign to highlight the collection. This permanent collection addresses the needs of the community in response to the growing and persistent needs and challenges faced by those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

Monica Reiss lived in Fanwood for 25 years and was the director of corporate and foundation giving for Autism Speaks (www.autismspeaks.org), a charity based in New York City. She was responsible for writing grant applications and for the charity's fundraising efforts, and was an avid supporter of their efforts on behalf of children and individuals and families struggling with autism.

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Monica was dedicated to her job and to the mission of Autism Speaks, whose goal is to change the future for all who struggle with ASD. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has grown into the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks aims to bring the autism community together as one strong voice to urge the government and private sector to listen to their concerns and take action to address this urgent global health crisis. It is their firm belief that, working together, we will find the missing pieces of the puzzle.

The Fanwood Memorial Library is grateful that the Reiss family directed donations to the library, especially since Monica’s job and passion fits so perfectly with the library’s ongoing efforts to raise autism awareness with the program called Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected (www.librariesandautism.org) developed cooperatively with the Scotch Plains Public Library.

This award-winning project, begun in 2008, produced a customer service training video and website to help library staff serve individuals with autism and their families more effectively.  It helps librarians focus on what they need to know about autism, and delivers specific techniques to offer more inclusive and effective service to this growing and underserved population. The project stresses communication, customer service, and using individuals on the ASD spectrum and with other developmental disabilities as staff and volunteers in the library. It explores specific programming strategies that work, the importance of connecting and partnering with local experts, and empowering staff to be willing to ‘do something’ within a welcoming climate of acceptance and inclusion.

Dan Weiss (Fanwood Library Director) and Meg Kolaya (Scotch Plains Library Director), who are responsible for the Libraries and Autism initiative, continue their work on a national level to help raise autism awareness and to provide library staff with strategies that enable them to provide excellent and inclusive service to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and to their families at the library. The program has reached an international audience as well, with outreach in Australia, Ghana, Belgium, Korea and Canada.

Please stop into the library to see and make use of the Monica Reiss Autism Resources Collection.

For more information contact Dan Weiss at 908.322.6400 or dweiss@fanwoodlibrary.org.

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