Ask an Agent: How Do You Handle Developmentally Delayed Adults Who Want to Attend Teen Programs?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question: I seem to be getting asked a lot by caretakers if it’s okay for their adult dependent (who is developmentally somewhere in the teenage years) to attend a teen program either with or without their adult aid. While I’m not opposed to persons attending a developmentally appropriate program, all of my teen programs are labeled as “Teens 12-18” and I wonder about potential liability issues. Do I need a policy for this? What do other people do in this situation?

Jenni (South San Francisco Public Library) says: 

I would specify that our age range for teen programs is for biological age and not developmental age. If you have enough interest, it might be possible to create a program similar to your teen program but geared for developmentally delayed individuals who are interested in the topic. I would, however, keep the two programs separate, the same way I would deny access to a teen program if a child who is gifted/developmentally advanced would request access.

Michelle (Medicine Hat Public Library) says:

All of our teen advertising has this written on it:

“Please note that Teen program participants must be within the posted age range on the day of the program to attend. Participants attend without a parent or other adult chaperon; if a teen requires special accommodation please communicate those needs to the Library prior to the program”
This helps with many situations, whether it is adults or tweens that wish to attend. We do have programming for tweens and for persons with disabilities. I have had  teens that came with their worker and it worked wonderfully.

Nikki (Cleveland Bradley County Public Library) says:

I seem to be getting asked a lot by caretakers if it’s okay for their adult dependent (who is developmentally somewhere in the teenage years) to attend a teen program either with or without their adult aid. While I’m not opposed to persons attending a developmentally appropriate program, all of my teen programs are labeled as “Teens 12-18” and I wonder about potential liability issues. Do I need a policy for this? What do other people do in this situation?

I go by year age and not developmental age for teen programs. I’ve dealt with this issue before with a patron who we had to ultimately ban from the library entirely (for many, many, many reasons not just wanting to chill in the teen area and attend programs because according to her parent “she still feels like a teen”) and I just didn’t feel that I could compromise that strict age guideline without opening up to future weirdness/potential liability issues, especially when our policy doesn’t allow for adults to be on the teen computers, etc. and I’ve had to say no to younger children even though they felt mature enough to do the teen things and no to my teens who have graduated out of our age bracket. I wanted to maintain fairness on both sides.

I know that we are all totally maxed out on programs and staff time, but our solution was holding a special story time or program specifically for this patron group. We have a couple of schools and group programs for adults in the area and our children’s librarian does a program once a month specifically for them. It’s a great activity for the attendees and it’s also positive for the caretakers/parents who are tired and potentially burned out and can use some downtime to grab a coffee.

We have discussed hosting after hours events for families with younger children who have special needs, but haven’t started this program yet. Talking to teachers and parents, some of our potential library users are avoiding the library because they are afraid noise or behavior will be problematic or get them the stink eye and we want them to know that we’re already using inclusive practices in our programs and that everyone is welcome.

I don’t know if that works for you, but if you have a large enough demand it might be worth it to have a program for that group. We have a couple programs that don’t have huge numbers (and I know it depends on what your administration considers when looking at a program’s success) but to me the impact it could have on a group of people who could benefit so much from library services exceeds other concerns. Try checking out http://librariesandautism.org/ for resources that are adaptable for patrons with all kinds of disabilities and not just folks on the spectrum. It’s a great starting point for considering these kinds of issues!

Thanks to our volunteer agents for the awesome answers. If you have a question about anything teen services related ask it here! Your question will be featured on the blog with answers from our agent volunteers or TSU team members. If you’d liked to be a volunteer agent, please submit your info here.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *