Everywhere I go, it seems, I spot a child who appears to have autism. Maybe having a child of my own on the spectrum makes me more in tune to the signs and symptoms. At the same time, my observations could be a reflection of the new normal for neurodiversity. According to the CDC, in only sixteen years the amount of children being diagnosed has significantly grown from 1 in 150 in the year 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2016.
Thankfully, with more children on the spectrum, there are more therapies, resources, and supports for our kids to succeed than ever before. Books, TV shows, and even movies now highlight people with autism, creating an atmosphere for acceptance.
With April being Autism Awareness Month, here are eight books that will help teach kids to have greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance for those on the spectrum.
Smokey the cat after his annual summer shave
All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman
Our Maine Coon cat, Smokey, doesn’t like to be touched, on the tummy especially! He hears every little noise and loves to squeeze under things (like my bed). Wait, do cats have autism? Could be… The amazon.com best selling book, All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome compares cats to kids on the spectrum and the funny thing is, there are a ton of similarities.
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete
Founder of the HollyRod Foundation, both singer and actress, Peete now adds author to her list of credentials. Having a son with autism inspired her to write about the power of the sibling bond. A sister who has a twin brother with autism recognizes his struggles along with his unique talents and strengths.
Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas
This book, written in the first look at disabilities series, introduces children to those growing up with special needs. But that’s the thing, being “special” means being singled out. Highlighting the things all kids have in common can be a positive way to help them relate to kids who have physical or learning differences.
Sensitive Sam: Sam’s Sensory Adventure Has a Happy Ending! by Marla Roth-Fisch
Sam’s sensory sensitivities cause him all sorts of trouble. Witty and engaging, this story is sure to build understanding about the sensory issues involved in having autism.
Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder
This book takes a look at different people throughout history who had learning differences that lead to amazing discoveries and lasting impacts on the world. Included are Temple Grandin, Lewis Carrol, and Albert Einstein.
Art by my fifteen-year-old, April Griese
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
This National Book Award winner tells the story of Caitlin, whose sensory sensitivities and difficulties communicating affects her ability to grieve the loss of her brother. Dealing with both the challenges of being a tween on the spectrum and the tragedy of losing her brother through a school shooting, this middle grade novel brings up some heavy realities with grace.
Styrofoam found in a box helps my son with autism look at the camera
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Children try to figure out the world through observation, by seeing what works and what doesn’t. Catherine keeps a list of rules for her brother with autism to help him to be more normal, but she also keeps unwritten rules for herself. How do you really define what’s normal and what’s not? And, depending on how you look at it, maybe out-of-the-ordinary could mean extraordinary.
If you’re looking for a pictorial biography of Temple Grandin, look no further. This book shares how a simple girl with autism grew up to change the world. It may inspire both parents and children to reach for the stars.