As children grow, we often wonder how to best explain autism spectrum disorder to siblings, peers and kids on the autism spectrum. Often times, children can relate to visuals and stories to best understand something as complex as autism.
There’s an endless selection of children’s books available to teach children and youth about ASD, and I have narrowed down some my favourite children’s books on this very subject.
Below are eight children’s books that do a great job of explaining and illustrating autism spectrum disorder.
All My Stripes: a Story for Kids with Autism. Shaina Rudolph & Danielle Royer, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
“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!
David’s World: a Picture Book about Living with Autism. Dagmar Mueller & Verena Ballhaus
David does not like when people are noisy; he does not like being hugged — not even by his own brother. David does not laugh when happy or cry when sad. He speaks his own language, which is difficult to understand at times. And he eats the same foods almost every day. However, David is a brilliant pianist and seems to have an amazing ability to communicate with the family dog. And even though he is not like most children, through the eyes of his brother we are able to see how he makes progress toward understanding his world.
A Girl Like Tilly: Growing Up with Autism. Helen Bates, illustrated by Ellen Li
Tilly is struggling at school, she really doesn’t like surprises, she isn’t sure if she’s a girl or a boy, and she just doesn’t want to make new friends. Why is it such hard work to try and understand people, or for them to understand her? This poignant story maps the entire childhood of a bright young girl with autism. Growing up undiagnosed, she finds life increasingly difficult and confusing. Unable to communicate her thoughts and feelings, she retreats further into her own world while her family grows evermore perplexed and concerned. When a psychologist finally explains what makes her special, they can stop focusing on the problems and start to navigate a new way forward for Tilly.
With vividly expressive illustrations and minimal words, this story is a valuable tool for helping children aged 7-13 and their families understand female autism.
I See Things Differently: a First Look at Autism. Pat Thomas
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 story line 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.
Leah’s Voice. Lori DeMonia, illustrated by Monique Turchan
Leah’s Voice is a story that touches on the difficulties children encounter when they meet a child with special needs such as autism. Children who have a brother or sister with special needs may find it difficult to explain to their friends, or feel disappointed when their friends aren’t more understanding. Leah’s Voice tells the story of two sisters facing these challenges. Through her kindness and devotion, one sister teaches by example the importance of including everyone and showing acceptance.
My Brother Is Autistic. Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, illustrations by Marta Fàbrega
Having a sibling with autism can be hard, especially at school. Maybe if the other kids knew more about autism they’d stop teasing Billy and just be nice!
This book describes an autistic child from his brother’s point of view. It talks about ways autistic kids can be helped and how they can better relate to their family and surroundings.
My Brother Charlie. Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Callie is very proud of her twin brother Charlie. He’s so good at so many things — swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog Harriet. Charlie is in many ways just like any other boy — and he has autism.
Since We’re Friends: an Autism Picture Book. Celeste Shally, illustrated by David Harrington
Matt’s autism doesn’t stop him from having fun! Even when Matt struggles to navigate social situations, his friend is there to help him out. The two boys enjoy playing sports, watching movies, reading books, and talking about animals. Working together, a best friend’s compassion and understanding turn Matt’s frustration into excitement. Whether on the basketball court, the playground swings, or at the neighborhood pool, the two friends enjoy each other’s company.