Books and stories help to reveal a little piece of ourselves. They make us relate to stories and characters in them and thus help us understand and empathize better. Activities like relating to others, understanding emotions, and making and keeping friends are common challenges faced by children with autism. Reading about autistic characters can act as a learning tool for discovering their place in the world.
Some of these books are for children on the spectrum while others are aimed towards siblings and friends. Irrespective of that, these children’s books provide a level of comfort and understanding that can only be achieved through a good story.
This book introduces children aged 8 to 12 years to famous, inspirational figures from the world of science, art, math, literature, philosophy, and comedy. Eight-year-old Quinn, a young boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, tells young readers about the achievements and characteristics of his autism heroes, from Albert Einstein, Dian Fossey, and Wassily Kandinsky to Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Banneker and Julia Bowman Robinson, among others. All excel in different fields but are united by the fact that they often found it difficult to fit in just like Quinn. Fully illustrated in colour and written in child-friendly language, this book will be a wonderful resource for children, particularly children with autism, their parents, teachers, carers, and siblings.
My Autism Book: A Child’s Guide to their Autism Spectrum Diagnosis by Gloria Dura-Vila (Author), Tamar Levi (Author, Illustrator)
This is a beautifully illustrated picture book that helps parents to explain an autism diagnosis to their child in a sensitive, positive and accurate way. When a child is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), parents often feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to communicate the diagnosis to their child.
This book is designed to be read with the child as a simple introduction to their diagnosis. Written by a doctor and a children’s author, the book is tailored precisely to the needs and experiences of the child with ASD aged 5 and up. It explains what an autism diagnosis means and encourages an exploration of the child’s likely strengths and differences using clear language that speaks directly to the child. The colourful pictures throughout show how the world looks from the child’s perspective and the book ends with a summary checklist to encourage the child to record and discuss how autism affects them.
Russell’s World: A Story for Kids about Autism by Charles A. Amenta (Author), Monika Pollak (Illustrator)
This book is a poignant, inside look into a family living with severe autism. Specifically written by the parents of Russell, their goal is to introduce autism to children who are dealing with a similar situation in their homes. Russell is shown doing regular, familiar, every-day activities with his parents and brothers, much as any brother would do. The Parent’s Section at the end is particularly helpful for parents in explaining autism to siblings, teachers inappropriately introducing autism to students, and others in roles where knowledge is key.
Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”– in order to head off David’s embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behaviour that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal? This 2007 Newbery Honor Book is a humorous and heartwarming debut about feeling different and finding acceptance.
Sarah, a new girl at school, sees Andy by himself on the playground and is curious about his preoccupation with spinning a yellow frisbee. His sister Rosie watches Andy protectively from her soccer game and is fearful that the new girl will disturb his fragile composure. As Rosie thinks of Andy’s problem, she explains autism to readers. Soft, watercolor illustrations reinforce the tenderness that Rosie feels toward her brother. At the end of the book, Thompson offers factual information about autism, its different degrees, and characteristics. Andy is a book that will help youngsters see how those with special needs may be different but deserve tolerance and kindness just like all children do.
I See Things Differently by Pat Thomas
Psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas puts her gentle, yet straightforward approach to work in this new addition to Barron’s highly acclaimed A First Look At...Series. This book will help children understand what autism is and how it affects someone who has it. A wonderful catalyst for discussion that will help children to better understand and support autistic classmates or siblings. The storyline is simple and easily accessible to younger children, who will learn that exploring the personal feelings around social issues is a first step in dealing with them.
This story speaks to children who have autism, and explains to them what it means in a way that leaves them feeling empowered and able to make their dreams come true. The story refers to sensory issues as “special powers” and explains how living with autism can be awesome and at the same time also feel tricky sometimes. The Superhero Brain is written by a mother to her autistic son. The story was initially only intended to be for her son, to help him better understand himself, but has since turned in to a book available for everyone to share with their children. To help your child relate to the message in this story, the book is available with a number of different characters.
All My Stripes: A Story for Children With Autism by Shaina Rudolph (Author), Danielle Royer (Author), Jennifer Zivoin (Illustrator)
“Nobody gets me, Mama!” In All My Stripes, Zane the zebra feels different from the rest of his classmates. He worries that all they notice about him is his “autism stripe”. With the help of his Mama, Zane comes to appreciate all his stripes – the unique strengths that make him who he is! The book includes a Reading Guide with additional background information about autism spectrum disorders.
A Friend Like Simon: Volume 1 (Special Stories Series 2) by Kate Gaynor (Author), Caitriona Sweeney (Illustrator)
This book is beautifully illustrated by Irish artist Caitriona Sweeney. It is designed to introduce all children, especially those in mainstream school, to a child with ASD. The story begins with Matthew greeting his new classmate Simon on his first day at a new school. When Mathew realises Simon is a little different to his other friends, he’s just not sure if he wants to have ‘a friend like Simon’. However, a school trip to the funfair soon helps to change his mind!
Julie is unhappy when her autistic brother wants to come with her because his actions sometimes embarrass her, but when he gets lost, Julie must step into his shoes to find him.