We are deep in back-to-school mode, so it's a good time to remind children to be kind, and accept and affirm people's differences. Obviously some differences are apparent when you look at them, but that's not necessarily the case for neurodiverse people. Kids figure out, pretty quickly, that every one of their classmates is different. They learn differently. They relate to people differently, and they perceive differently. Some of these differences fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity. And just as you'd hope, there are books for kids with neurodiverse representation that can help deepen understanding and empathy.
The term neurodiversity encompasses a lot of ways people can be neurologically different from one another. The term includes autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, and tic syndromes. It's also an attitude that people who are wired differently are part of the normal variation of people. It doesn't diminish any difficulty that may come neurodiverse people, but it reframes these differences in an accepting light, as you'll see some these fantastic picture books and middle-grade novels.
1. 'A Friend For Henry' by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song
Henry really wants a friend, but not just any friend will do. Henry meets his new classmates with the hope of finding his person. Though not explicit in the narrative, Henry's sensitivity and social interactions and desire for a friend give a lovely peek into the world of a young autistic child.
2. 'The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: The Story Of Dr. Temple Grandin' by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley
A biography of Dr. Temple Grandin is a great first stop when reading about neurodiversity. The way Dr. Grandin thinks in pictures led to some of her most celebrated contributions to livestock behavior and handling. Not only is her neurodiversity one of her strengths, but she has taught the world a lot about what it is like to be autistic. Her website has a wealth of information and advice for autistic people and their families.
3. 'Unstoppable Me' by Susan Verde, illustrated by Andrew Joyner
Boundless energy, no desire to sit still, on the go! This positive portrayal of a child with hyperactivity celebrates the exuberance and enthusiasm that can come along with ADHD or other reasons some kids just seem to have an endless motor. The sparse, active style of the writing will appeal to kids, even if they zoom around while you read it.
4. 'Benji, The Bad Day, And Me; by Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Ken Min
This sibling book is forthcoming in October 2019. Sammy is having a bad day and wants to retreat into his brother Benji's safe and cozy space. Benji is having a bad day, too. Sammy knows that Benji has a lot of tough days, so he's happy to take a page from his book.
5. 'A Boy Called Bat' by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso.
A story about a boy and the skunk who becomes his best friend, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a series about a boy on the spectrum. This one got the seal of approval from Dr. Temple Grandin herself. Readers who love this one will be excited that there are two more volumes!
6. 'Focused' by Alyson Gerber
Middle-schooler Clea's inattention catches up to her as school and extracurriculars become more challenging. When she's diagnosed with ADHD, a lot of things fall into place for her. The close narrative really helps the reader see the world through Clea's eyes.
7. 'The Echo Park Castaways' By M. G. Hennessey
Older kids will immediately get hooked on this story about older children in foster care. Three kids have finally found a stable and loving home, but still have a lot on their plates. Everything gets turned on its head when Quentin, a boy with autism, shows up. The three kids who have learned to look out for each other begin to relate to and care for Quentin. It's sweet, emotional and adventurous story for middle grade readers.
8. 'The Real Boy' by Anne Ursu
In a fantastical world with mystery and magic, Oscar knows he's different from other people. He's chosen to be an apprentice to a magician and feels safe staying inside and working with herbs. When the children on his island fall ill, Oscar needs to expand his small world to reach out and help. This is a celebration of diverse talents and original points of view.