Books are excellent teaching tools for kids and adults alike as they are helpful for tackling some of the challenges surrounding autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For a lot of people on the spectrum and their families, reading books about autism is a great way to educate and to help manage everyday life.
Best Books to Explain Autism to a Child
There are so many amazing books written with children in mind that highlight the special abilities of people on the autism spectrum. Sharing these books with children as well as adults is vital for understanding and acceptance.
All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer
This book is about a zebra named Zane who has autism. At first, Zane is afraid that his friends and classmates might treat him differently because of his autism. Later on, he discovers he doesn’t have anything to be scared of, and he begins to see his unique ability as a special power.
Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? by Jennifer Veenendall
Izzy is a first grader who is misunderstood because of the unusual way she behaves. This book is great for children with autism or children who know someone with autism.
Noah Chases the Wind by Michelle Worthington
Follow the story of Noah who is a curious boy with autism. Noah loves to read to find answers to his questions. There was one question, however, that none of his books could answer. This book is a great read for anyone who wants to understand autism as told from a different perspective.
Hello Roar, Little Dinosaur by Hazel Reeves
This book is part of a series about a dinosaur named Roar. Like most kids with autism, Roar thinks differently. In each part of the series, Roar is shown using his special abilities that he uses for each adventure.
Different Like Me by Jennifer Elder
This classic book introduces the reader to several important names in history who were on the spectrum. Some examples are Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Lewis Carroll.
Autism Books for Siblings
Some books are written with siblings in mind—where one character is on the spectrum while the other is not. These books are perfect for a child with autism and his/her sibling(s) and illustrate the differences and the rewards of playing with and caring for one another.
Everybody is Different by Fiona Bleach
This book helps brothers and sisters of children with autism understand what it’s like to be on the spectrum. In addition to accessible information about the characteristics of autism, the book also gives helpful suggestions on how to make family life easier for everyone.
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete
Written by actress Holly Robinson Peete, My Brother Charlie is a story told by Charlie’s big sister. In the book, Charlie’s sister mentions how autism makes his brother different. It highlights the fact that children with autism can be great at doing specific things like memorizing the names of all American Presidents, but may need more help with making friends or communicating feelings.
Leah’s Voice by Lori Demonia
Leah’s Voice is a heart-warming story about two sisters who are facing the challenges of being on the spectrum. The siblings find a way to play and relate to each other despite their differences.
Views from Our Shoes by Donald Joseph Meyer
Written specifically for children with an autistic brother/sister, this book is a collection of stories from siblings of children affected by autism, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and other disabilities. There’s also a glossary of terms.
Books for Autistic Pre-Schoolers
Preschoolers need colorful and entertaining books to explain autism and promote acceptance. There are many books that do a great job of simplifying an otherwise complex topic and make it easy and fun to read together.
We’re Amazing 1,2,3! A Story About Friendship and Autism by Leslie Kimmelman
This Big Golden Book is about Sesame Street’s new character, Julia. Julia has autism, and in the story, Elmo introduces her to Abby. Abby discovers that although Julia does things differently, there are a lot of things they have in common.
I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism by Pat Thomas
Pat Thomas, a psychotherapist, and counselor writes about the characteristics of autism in a practical yet sensitive manner. There are full illustrations on every page of this book, and the story teaches preschoolers how children with autism see and do things differently.
Nathan’s Autism Spectrum Superpowers by Lori Leigh Yarborough
This cute storybook follows a boy named Nathan who has superpowers brought about by his autism. Some of his superpowers are supersonic hearing, routine retention, and actual factual, literal powers.
Books for Students With Autism
For kids with autism, school is where they learn to interact with others. It can be a challenge for some, especially when other kids around them don’t understand their behavior. These books about how autistic and non-autistic children can get along are valuable teaching aids.
A Friend Like Simon by Kate Gaynor
This book is great for introducing autism to a school-age child. The story is about Simon, a boy with autism, and how he made friends at school.
Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Celeste Shally
This autism storybook is about two friends, one who is on the spectrum and one who is not, and how they bond. They do the usual things together like watching movies, reading books, and talking about animals. Matt, who has autism, gets support and friendship from his friend.
Uniquely Wired: A Story About Autism and Its Gifts by Julia Cook
This engaging book follows a boy named Zack. Zack is obsessed with watches and has autism. The story is told in Zack’s point of view so readers who are not on the spectrum will gain a deeper understanding of how it can affect someone.
Books for Autistic Teenagers
Being a teenager with autism can pose some difficult hurdles. These books can help teens with autism (and those around them) cope with the social and emotional demands they face every day.
The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick
This uplifting book is a must-have for kids on the spectrum, their parents, and other family members. This book is meant to be read by a person with autism and his/her parents. It includes a section explaining autism in detail and a portion called “Why Me?” which encourages acceptance with a positive attitude.
The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome by Jennifer Cook O’Toole
This book is a great way for teens with Asperger’s syndrome to learn about social norms and how to handle social situations. The book has comic-style illustrations so “Aspies” can practice their social skills before trying them out in the real world.
Anything But Typical by Norah Raleigh Baskin
Meet Jason, a 12-year-old boy living in a neurotypical world. Jason wants to be friends with Rebecca, who he only meets online. Jason wants to meet her in person but is scared that Rebecca might not like him when she learns about his autism. This book is great for anyone with autism who is worried about fitting in.
Books Written By Autistic Authors
Sometimes the best way to learn about something is through seeing things from another person’s point of view. These books written by authors with autism are a valuable resource for any friend, family member, or teacher who wants to get inside the autistic mind for a deeper understanding.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida
This book is written by 13-year-old Naoki Higashida who is nonverbal. Higashida describes how it feels to do certain things. He answers questions as to why he doesn’t make eye contact and why he jumps—to which he answers, “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”
No You Don’t: Essays from an Unstrange Mind by Sparrow Rose Jones
This book is a collection of stories as told by Sparrow Rose Jones who first published them in her blog. Jones shares intimate details about her life with autism. She hopes to “bridge the social gap between autistic and non-autistic people” through this book.
Defiant by Michael Scott Monje Jr.
This fiction novel follows Clay Dillon, who took 30 years to figure out that he is probably autistic. With this new knowledge comes major changes in Clay’s everyday life.
Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin, autism spokesperson, and animal scientist, first published this book in 1995. In this book, which has been updated, Grandin talks about her own autistic characteristics and how she built a successful career in the neurotypical world despite challenges.
Autism Books for Parents
Parenting a child with autism can often be a challenge requiring substantial research, resources, and guidance. Thankfully, there are plenty of books to help you parent an autistic child.
Autism: How to Raise a Happy Autistic Child by Jessie Hewitson
Award-winning writer Jessie Hewitson writes about the basics of parenting a child with autism, including how to recognize signs of autism in a child. This book is a must-have for parents with a child or children on the spectrum.
The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults by Temple Grandin Ph. D.
In this book, Grandin writes about how parents can “restore your child’s hope and motivation—and what you should avoid.” Focused more on dealing with adulthood, the book contains eight stories told by people on the spectrum.
Empowered Autism Parenting: Celebrating (and Defending) Your Child’s Place in the World by William Stillman
This book talks about raising children on the spectrum without them getting pathologized or over-medicated. There is also a discussion of the 10-step method to build strong relationships with an autistic child.
Playing, Laughing and Learning with Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Practical Resource of Play Ideas for Parents and Carers Second Edition by Julia Moore
Parents can sometimes be unaware of the best ways to play and have fun with their autistic child. This book addresses that dilemma by providing specific play activities broken down into manageable stages. Play ideas are taken from different themes and include music, art, puzzles, outdoor plays, and other physical activities.
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Autism Books for Children on the Spectrum
How to Teach an Autistic Child to Read
Keep in mind all children learn differently. While some children on the spectrum are visual learners, others learn better from sound or touch. These differences can make a difference in how you approach the reading process. Sometimes children with autism can read the words but unable to understand what they are reading, which is known as hyperlexia.
In a study called Patterns of Reading Ability in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, psychologists at Oxford University noted that children with autism were found to have average reading skills. In fact, some of them read very well—but ranked poorly in terms of reading comprehension.
The good news is many ASD children with or without hyperlexia can still learn how to read with the help of improvised methods of teaching.
Here are some helpful suggestions for teaching a child with autism how to read:
- For toddlers, choose a storybook with a simple story. Every element—pictures, storyline, words— should not be too complicated.
- Don’t wait until the child starts to talk. It is a misconception that a child with autism needs to talk first before he/she is exposed to books and reading. There is significant evidence that reading can help a child develop his/her verbal skills.
- Make reading a part of the child’s daily activities, rather than being a task that can only be done at a desk. Encourage him/her to read street signs, menus, toy box labels, and other texts from real-life objects.
- Be interactive while reading. It’s great if you can:
- Point to pictures while reading
- Change your voice and facial expressions to add interest to the story further
- Use puppets or toy figures to act out the story
It’s important to find age-appropriate books that consider a child’s individual learning level. Be sure to look for specific books about autism that can help kids recognize their amazing qualities and unique abilities. For older kids, books can provide excellent ways to understand social norms and communicate better with the people around them. Reading about autism is an excellent step toward better understanding one’s self, a friend, classmate, or sibling on the autism spectrum.
Patterns of Reading Ability in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. (November 2006). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6890576_Patterns_of_Reading_Ability_in_Children_with_Autism_Spectrum_Disorder
Five tips for helping nonverbal children with autism learn to read. (26 December, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/five-tips-helping-nonverbal-children-autism-learn-read
30 Best Children’s Books About the Autism Spectrum. Retrieved from https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/30-best-childrens-books-about-the-autism-spectrum/
Kim Barloso is a freelance writer and editor based in the Philippines. She works from home while taking care of two kids, one of whom has autism.