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20 Children’s Books To Read On World Autism Awareness Day

Read these books on for kids to learn about themselves, their sibling, or their peers with autism.

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Autism can make children feel different, misunderstood, and even ostracized. No parent wants their child to feel this way, and parents of the children around them probably hope their kids are being compassionate, too. Reading children’s books about autism together can allow children who live with it to see themselves represented in stories, and lets other children learn about their friends and siblings with autism and ask questions. It’s also a great way to help raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website states that one in 54 children have autism spectrum disorder, which “can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.” That rate means even if your own child does not have autism, chances are they will encounter someone who does, either in a sibling, friend, or classmate. Even without having a specific person to talk about, Autism Speaks advocates that autism education and sensitivity training can occur at home, so even children who have never encountered someone living with autism can (and should) learn a little more.

Just like representation of different races and identities has become an important focus of children’s books, a child on the autism spectrum seeing themselves represented within a story and children without autism reading stories starring kids on the spectrum is crucial. If you want your little one to learn about characters like them, their sibling, or their classmates, these books may come in handy.

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1

Explaining Asperger Syndrome

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome is best suited for children with siblings or friends on the spectrum who need some help understanding their loved one. Sam has his quirks — his coat hurts his skin, he sings all the time, and his pancakes absolutely shouldn’t touch each other — but all of that is OK. Sam’s story includes 10 tips to help children accept and interact respectfully with autism spectrum disorder. It's appropriate for ages 6 to 9.

2

A Book For Preteens

Ideal for pre-teens, Rogue's main character, Kiara, has Asperger’s syndrome, and has difficulty making friends. She idolizes her favorite X-Men character, Rogue, who couldn’t make friends either until she learned to control her powers. When Chad and his family move in across the street, Kiara befriends him and tries to keep it that way. She soon learns a secret of his, and how true of a friend she can be. Maybe that’s her special power.

3

Connecting With Siblings

Marco’s 8-year-old sister sits down to make a list of all the things she loves (and really doesn’t love) about Marco and his autism. At the end, she realizes she has written A Manual for Marco with instructions on loving him just the way he needs. It's perfect for ages 3 to 6.

4

A Look Inside Life With Autism

Bat’s mom is a veterinarian, and one day she returns home from work with a baby skunk. The kit needs to be cared for until it’s old enough to be released. Bat names the baby Thor and sets about making it a perfect pet. A Boy Called Bat is a sweet, realistic glimpse into life with autism.

5

A Mystery Read For Teens

In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Christopher John Francis Boone is a 15-year-old boy on the spectrum, extremely gifted in mathematics, and is pretty hopeless about his social skills. As his parents try to work with their son’s quirks, Christopher busies himself trying to figure out what happened in the mysterious death of a dog in his neighborhood.

6

Understanding Family Dynamics

Charlie’s life was totally normal until his father, a war journalist, is injured in Afghanistan while covering a story. His dad has to travel from their home in California all the way to Virginia for medical treatment, and Charlie finds himself on a road trip with his unruly siblings and a family friend he doesn’t know much about just yet. The Someday Birds wraps up the best aspects of a road trip comedy with themes of dealing with family crisis and growing up with autism in a powerful chapter book.

7

Based On A Real Person’s Life

Dr. Temple Grandin was young when she was diagnosed with autism and told she would never talk. But her unique way of visual thinking allowed her to deeply connect with animals, and ultimately reform farming conditions around the world. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures illustrates the positive contributions people with autism can make, and how those who are told they can’t talk can have big voices.

8

Understanding Siblings

Told from the point of view of his sister Callie, My Brother Charlie tells the story of a young boy who sometimes shuts the world out. Although Charlie doesn’t always open up, Callie is still proud to be his sister and sees that when he does want to play and have fun, he teaches her about love, tolerance, and togetherness.

9

A Book About Inclusivity

Chibi is always excluded on the playground because his autism makes him different. But one day, a caring teacher shows the other students Chibi’s special talent of connecting with animals, earning him the nickname Crow Boy, and they all begin to see him with new admiration. This read is best suited for ages 3 to 6.

10

Making Tough Choices

In this Schneider Family Award-winning novel for ages 13 and older, Ben is ready to leave home, and when he does, he plans to join the military. His decision impacts every member of his family, but more than anyone, it affects his brother. Ben’s brother has autism and the two are extremely close. And now, he wants to enlist, too. Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am is sure to tug some heartstrings once readers connect with these characters.

11

All About Friendship

Henry longs for a friend who listens to him and likes things all in order, just like he does. One day, a day full of things that are claustrophobic and way too loud for his liking, a friend finds him. A Friend for Henry is all about the magic of friendship in everyday life.

12

An Exciting Fantasy Story

Oscar knows every last detail about magical herbs and what to use them for, but interacting with other people seems impossible. In The Real Boy, he takes an apprenticeship with Caleb, the last magician in Barrow, and Oscar tries to just collect herbs, make tinctures, and clean up after himself. But when an evil force strikes Barrow, Oscar and his friends will have to step up to protect the land.

13

Coping With Sensory Issues

In Too Sticky!, Holly worries about how to participate in a science experiment that involves touching slime. Her autism means that her body dislikes touching sticky things, but with the help and encouragement of her teacher, Holly is able to receive accommodations that allow her to still be engaged with the experiment.

14

Embracing Differences

During summer break, Johnny goes to stay with his aunt and his cousin, Remember, who has autism. Johnny learns about Remember’s quirks, like repeating what Johnny says and watching hours of The Weather Channel. Over the course of the summer, the two bond and share girl troubles, save someone from drowning, and have the best summer of their lives together. Remember Dippy has won numerous awards and is sure to be a hit with young readers from ages 9 to 12.

15

Connecting With Classmates

For kids who may have a classmate living with autism, reading A Friend Like Simon can be a great way to help children understand how to connect inside the classroom at school. This beautifully illustrated story can introduce young readers to the differences they may encounter with their classmates and how to embrace new friendships.

16

Adapting To Change

When best friends Rip and Red get a new fifth grade teacher, they’re both a bit thrown off by their new teacher’s ways — no homework, no tests, and off-the-wall-projects. Red is living with autism, and these changes cause a major disruption. In A Whole New Ballgame, Red and Rip learn how to adapt to change and embrace their new teacher.

17

Getting Through Bad Days

On a day when everything seems like it’s going wrong, big brother Sammy looks to his little brother Benji to help him cope. Because Benji has autism and has learned how to help himself feel better on bad days, he’s able to help Sammy through. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me is a wonderful read about sibling relationships and getting through tough days.

18

A Book For The Youngest Readers

For children who have yet to be introduced to the concept of what autism is like for people who live with it, I See Things Differently can help them learn and understand in an accessible, easy-to-understand way. Part of the “First Look At...” series, this illustrated book is intended for kids ages 3 to 6.

19

All About Focusing

For kids on the spectrum, or any child who may have trouble focusing and paying attention, It’s Hard to be a Verb sheds light on the struggles that can happen when the ability to focus isn’t on the agenda for a young child. The book empathizes with kids who experience this while also offering ideas and tips for how to cope in a kid-friendly way.

20

Embracing Sensory Differences

Kids who experience sensory differences will identify with the young girl in Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down. Told from the perspective of a child who needs sensory stimulation to feel more secure in the world, the examples of a trickle of water on the hand, a big squeezing hug, and tapping a fork on the table are relatable for kids with sensory differences.