One of the most wonderful things about a book is its ability to reveal to us a little piece of ourselves. When we can relate to a story or a character, we are left with a better understanding of who we are and what our purpose may be.
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This might be most true for children on the autism spectrum. Because things like relating to others, understanding emotions, and making and keeping friends are common challenges faced by children with autism, reading about autistic characters can often act as an outlet and a learning tool to discovering one’s own place in the world.
While some of these books are written specifically for children on the autism spectrum, others are aimed towards siblings and friends. Regardless of the specific audience, each of these 30 best children’s books about the autism spectrum provide a level of comfort and understanding that can only be achieved through a good story.
All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006)
Ages 7 and Up
Not only does this delightful book include fun color photographs of cats and kittens, it also offers a humorous glimpse at some of the difficulties and joys of raising a child on the autism spectrum. Hoopmann draws insightful parallels between children with Asperger Syndrome and household cats, including sensitive hearing, picky eating habits, and a dislike of being touched.
All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism (Magination Press, 2015)
Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer
Zane the zebra has autism, and he is worried that his friends and classmates will make fun of his stripes, which make him different. As Zane learns that having autism is one of the many things that actually makes him special, young readers will relate to Zane and realize that they, too, have plenty to be proud of.
Andy and His Yellow Frisbee (Woodbine House, 1996)
When a new girl at school notices Andy playing alone with his yellow frisbee, Andy’s protective older sister, Rosie, becomes afraid that the girl will upset Andy. Through Rosie’s explanations of autism, young readers learn about the challenges faced by those on the autism spectrum. At the end of the book, the author also includes a helpful and insightful list autism facts.
The Asperger Children’s Toolkit (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012)
While most books about the autism spectrum are aimed at adults or neuro-typical peers, Francis Musgrave’s “The Asperger Children’s Toolkit” is primarily meant for autistic children themselves. But it’s not a mere list of do’s and don’ts. Rather, Musgrave focuses on positive behavior using easy-to-understand language directed straight to the children themselves. The book also includes a helpful introduction to parents.
The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-so-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012)
Jennifer Cook O’Toole
This bestselling book by Jennifer Cook O’Toole (who is both an Aspie herself and a mother of three children with Asperger’s) is a must-read guide for any teen or tween on the autism spectrum. The book is full of illustrations, humor, and easy-to-understand explanations of important social rules that may not be so obvious to a child on the spectrum. The book was named the Autism Society America 2014 Temple Grandin Outstanding Book of the Year and made the Autism/ASP Digest Top Books list.
The Autism Acceptance Book (Pathway Book Service, 2006)
Ages 6 and Up
Children will learn to respect and appreciate their peers with differences through author Ellen Sabin’s “The Autism Acceptance Book.” This interactive, educational book presents the challenges faced by those on the autism spectrum through respectful stories that are sure to build the characters of young readers.
Autism Is…? (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012)
Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan
When young Logan hears his grandmother tell her friend that Logan has autism, he wonders what she means? “Autism Is….?” is Logan’s grandmother’s answer, and children on the autism spectrum are sure to appreciate her easy-to-understand, child-friendly explanation of the facts. The book is part of a series featuring Logan and aimed at young readers on the spectrum, and other books include “Feelings Are…?”, “Manners Are….?”, “School Rules Are…?”, “Danger Is….?”, and a wide range of other topics helpful to those with autism.
Autism, the Invisible Cord: A Sibling’s Diary (Magination Press, 2012)
Siblings of children with autism will relate to 14-year old Jenny, the narrator of “Autism, the invisible Cord.” Jenny describes what it’s like to live day to day with her autistic brother, Ezra. With complete honesty, Jenny chronicles all of her frustrations, hopes, and love for her brother.
Can I Tell You About Asperger’s Syndrome? (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2003)
“Can I Tell You About Asperger’s Syndrome?” is narrated by Adam, a young boy on the autism spectrum. Through easily understood explanations and interesting illustrations, Adam teaches readers what Asperger’s Syndrome is, the different challenges faced by those with Asperger’s, and how young people can understand and appreciate their peers on the spectrum.
The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee (Chronicle Books; Reprint edition, 2015)
Barry Jonsberg’s novel “The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee” tells the story of a 12-year old girl on the autism spectrum. Candice has plenty of quirks, and her lovable nature is sure to make any young reader happy to jump on board her adventure.
Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2005)
Jennifer Elder’s classic book “Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes” tells the stories of a wide variety of accomplished and inspiring historical figures – scientists, authors, artists, intellectual giants – all of whom were likely on the autism spectrum. Young readers will learn about Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Lewis Carroll, and Andy Warhol, to name but a few.
Everybody is Different (Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2002)
Ages 9 and Up
As parents know, siblings often have questions about their brothers and sisters on the autism spectrum. In “Everybody is Different,” author Fiona Bleach presents common questions and their answers in order to explain autism in easy-to-understand terms. The book is wonderfully illustrated, and offers helpful suggestions for family members of all ages.
A Friend Like Simon (Special Stories Publishing, 2009)
Kate Gaynor’s “A Friend Like Simon” serves as a helpful introduction to autism for neuro-typical peers or siblings. This is the story about an autistic child who joins a “typical” classroom and faces a number of challenges. Young readers will learn how to be mindful of and patient with their autistic peers, while also learning about the many ways an autistic child can contribute to a friendship and community.
Hello Roar, Little Dinosaur (Learning Development Aids, 2012)
“Hello Roar, Little Dinosaur” is part of a series about a little dinosaur to which children with high-functioning autism are sure to relate. Like children on the autism spectrum, little Roar thinks about things in a different way, but she also realizes that that is what makes her special. Each Roar book features Roar using her unique abilities on an adventure alongside a family member or friend.
How to Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl (Creston Books, 2013)
Florida Frenz, an autistic teenager, wrote this powerful memoir about what it’s like to be on the autism spectrum. She documents everything from how to handle peer pressure to what it’s like to have to figure out social cues, read facial expressions, and have to work extra hard to make friends. This book is used in a number of classrooms around the country, and a teacher’s guide is also available.
How to Talk to an Autistic Kid (Free Spirit Publishing, 2011)
Daniel Stefanski (an autistic kid)
Ages 8 and Up
At Age 14, Daniel Stefanski wrote this guide for “typical kids” to help them speak and better relate to their peers on the autism spectrum. Through humor, personal stories, helpful advice, and straightforward explanations, Stefanski explains why the behaviors of those on the spectrum are often misunderstood, and encourages “typicals” to have the confidence to befriend those with autism.
Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism (Albert Whitman & Company; Reprint edition, 1998)
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of three young siblings, including Ian who has autism, on their trip to the local park. Ian’s sister, Julie, describes the ways in which Ian acts differently than the other children, from his disinterest in the other children to his fascination with the ducks. When Ian wanders off, Julie uses her knowledge about her brother to find him and lead him safely home.
Leah’s Voice (Halo Publishing International, 2012)
Inspired by two real-life sisters, “Leah’s Voice” is a heartwarming and engaging story about siblings who stick together through the challenges faced by the sister who has autism. The book focuses on what it is like to meet new friends, only to find out that that friend is not so understanding of an autistic child’s differences. Young readers will find the sisters’ devotion inspiring, while simultaneously seeing an example of how to be accepting and inclusive of others.
Looking after Louis (Albert Whitman & Company, 2004)
An unnamed little girl narrates this charming children’s picture about her classmate, Louis. Louis has autism, and the little girl uses her imagination, kindness, and Louis’s favorite sport, to include him in their games and classroom community. The book has been especially praised for its realistic view of autistic children in the classroom.
My Brother Charlie (Scholastic Press, 2010)
Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Actress and model Holly Robinson Peete wrote this book along with her daughter Ryan about their son and brother, Charlie. Ten-year old Charlie has autism, and the book gives helpful insight into what it is like to have a sibling who is autistic.
My Friend with Autism (Future Horizons, 2011)
Ages 4 and Up
“My Friend with Autism” is a book aimed at the classmates of students on the autism spectrum. Through fun illustrations and kid-friendly explanations, author Beverly Bishop describes the ways in which children with autism are the same as or different than others. For example, a child with autism might not be very good at sports, but his or her eyes will work so well that bright lights hurt them. The book also includes a helpful “Notes for Adults” section that offers more detailed information.
Noah Chases the Wind (Redleaf Lane, 2015)
“Noah Chases the Wind” is a beautiful illustrated book about a very curious young boy with autism. Noah loves science, and is full of questions — until he finds one that his books can’t answer. “Noah Chases the Wind” has been received a number of awards, including the silver medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Books Award and the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year Old Boy with Autism (Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition, 2016)
Every parent of an autistic child wishes to get inside the autistic mind, and this book helps to make that a reality. Thirteen-year old Naoki Higashida cannot physically speak out loud, but uses an alphabet grid to carefully construct the answers to common questions people have about those on the spectrum. Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks? Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking? Higashida’s book is charming and almost painfully honest. It was a New York Times bestseller, and spent 7 weeks on NPR’s Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller List. In her review of the book, Dr. Temple Grandin stated, “Everybody who is working with nonverbal individuals with autism should read it.”
Rules (Scholastic Press, 2006)
This Newberry Honor Book is a humorous and heartwarming tale about what it’s like to have an autistic younger brother and a family in which it’s impossible to live a normal life. Twelve-year old Catherine attempts to teach her younger brother how to be normal — “keep your pants on in public” — while she herself figures out just what “normal” means.
Also Available in Paperback (2008)
Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book (Sky Pony Press, 2012)
Celeste Shally and David Harrington
“Since We’re Friends” is a picture book to help children in pre-school through second grade better understand those on the autism spectrum. The story is about Matt, who has autism, and his best friend, who does not. Together, the two boys navigate sometimes-challenging social situations as they play sports, watch movies, read books, and talk about animals.
The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and Their Parents) (Free Spirit Publishing, 2012)
Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.
Ages 8 and Up
Adolescents on the autism spectrum will find this straightforward and easy-to-understand survival guide extremely helpful. The books covers everything that might seem not so obvious to a kid with autism: what to do if you’re struggling in school; how to make and keep friends; and how to best take care of yourself, among so many other things. It also covers some of the more difficult questions like “What’s an ASD?” and “Why me?”
Tacos Anyone? / ¿Alguien quiere tacos? (Speech Kids Texas Press, Inc., 2005)
This bilingual children’s book from the Autism Story series was the recipient of the 2005 Barbara Jordan Media Award. Aimed at a broad audience of young readers, parents, siblings, family members, and medical professionals, the story is about two brothers, Michael and Thomas. Thomas does not understand his four-year old brother’s behavior and can’t figure out how to play with him. When a therapist explains to Thomas that Michael is autistic, Thomas learns how to better relate to his brother.
Understanding Samantha: A Sibling’s Perspective of Autism (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013)
Written by the father of a child on the autism spectrum, “Understanding Samantha” is about David, whose older sister is autistic. Throughout the story, David attempts to better understand Samantha’s differences, especially her sensory issues. The book offers a valuable and heartwarming perspective of what it’s like to have a sibling with autism.
What it is to Be Me! (Fairdale Publishing, 2005)
Ages 4 Up
“What it is to Be Me!” is written from the perspective of Danny, the author’s son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Danny uses humor and keen insight to show readers of all ages what it means to have Asperger’s, complete with all of the challenges and victories.
Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? (Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2009)
Izzy is a fun and feisty first grader who is often misunderstood because of her seemingly odd behavior. This vibrantly illustrated book tells the story of how Izzy attempts to cope with sensory overload in surroundings that are new to her, while simultaneously promoting the acceptance of peers with sensory modulation difficulties.
More for Parents and Families:
- 101 Great Resources for Homeschooling Children with Autism
- 10 Best Comprehensive Homeschool Curricula for Children with Autism
- 30 Things Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum Want You to Know
- 30 Best Autism-Friendly Vacation Ideas
- Five Ways to Support Parents of Children with Autism
- Five Coping Strategies for Parents of Kids with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)