Autism is still often treated as a taboo topic, so books about autistic children should be essential reading for everyone. People on the autism spectrum might communicate, behave, and learn in ways that are different than others, and their specific behaviours can vary in form.
This list of books for autistic children is split into different categories. There are books for and about autistic kids, many of them about creating and celebrating healthy relationships. Then there are informational books about autism, many of which break down why kids on the spectrum react certain ways. Finally, there are sensory books for autistic children, which provide stimulating visual and tactile sensory experiences as they inform about animals, sounds, emotions, and anything else you can think of. I’ve noted when the book is written by an autistic author using #OwnVoices.
These books are all aimed at kids 10 years old and under, and for more books aimed at a variety of ages and in different genres, we also have a list of 50+ books about neurodiversity and another shorter list of picture books. While we do our best to actively promote diversity in books and publishing, this list features fewer authors and illustrators of color than we’d like. But as we see with newer titles like Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged and My Rainbow, hopefully, more diverse books about autistic children are forthcoming.
Reading Books for Autistic Children
Benji, the Bad Day and Me by Sally J. Pla and Ken Min
This is about the relationship between two brothers: Benji is autistic, while Sammy is neurotypical. Sammy is having a bad day and it’s even worse because he feels ignored in favor of Benji, culminating in some tears and self-pity. When Benji spots his brother crying, however, he comes over and very sweetly comforts him. Pla based this story on her own sons, and it’s a gentle reminder that everyone expresses their feelings differently and that sometimes, even if we don’t understand someone else’s way, we still just need to be patient.
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima
This award-winning book tells the story of Chibi, a shy child who isn’t understood by his classmates. While autism isn’t mentioned, kids on the spectrum will still find much to relate to. Chibi passes the time by amusing himself with his own unique interests. While he is initially mocked by the other children, he continues attending school. Eventually, a new teacher named Mr. Isobe comes to teach at the school, and he immediately appreciates Chibi’s skills, talents, and personality. It’s a very vibrantly illustrated story about learning to not judge people for being different.
Ty the Dinosaur and the Substitute Teacher by Marcus Tallbergs, Jill C. Faulkner, and Klaudia Drabikowska (#OwnVoices)
Ty the T-Rex has a bad day at school when his usual teacher is unexpectedly away and the substitute can’t seem to keep the class calm. Children on the spectrum can have difficulty adjusting to changes in their routine, and Ty is no exception. After he gets into an argument with a classmate, he is sent to the principal’s office; there, the principal teaches Ty a helpful trick. Co-author Jill C. Faulkner was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a child, and according to an interview with her on The Mighty, the story is based on her own experiences as a child of being misunderstood by adults as violent, angry, and badly behaved.
My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal with Art Twink (#OwnVoices)
Trinity is an autistic transgender girl, and, one day, she tells her mom that she needs long hair to be taken seriously by others as a girl. The problem is that she hates the sensation of hair touching her neck. Eventually, her mother weaves a wig of multi-colored curls in the shades of teal, pink, and purple. It’s a wonderful celebration of Blackness, family, and love, written by mother-daughter writing duo DeShanna and Trinity.
Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged by Zetta Elliott and Purple Wong
Told in simple, rhyming verse that won’t overwhelm young kids, this is told from the perspective of Benny’s neurotypical best friend and is about loving your friends for their uniqueness. The message will be very uplifting for autistic readers and a wonderful example for their friends.
Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT is Okay! By Clay Morton, Gail Morton, and Alex Merry
Johnny is neurotypical, and the narrator, his friend, is autistic. The narrator compares their behaviors from his perspective in a satiric, unexpected role reversal. Though written in a narrative format, this is more of an informational text. Clay and Gail Morton, the book’s authors, are parents of an autistic child, and they also research issues of neurodiversity in academics.
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song
Henry really wants to make friends, but he has trouble understanding the other kids at school. He’s very particular, and it creates a lot of frustration for him in class. Eventually, he befriends a quiet girl named Katie, and they are able to get along in a calm way that makes him feel good. Bailey based the story on the experience of her autistic son, who also struggled to make friends at school.
Me and My Sister by Rose Robbins
The narrator and his autistic sister love playing together, but he also understands that their relationship can be very complex and ever-changing. It has a really crucial message about love and support that is told in a way that is very easy for young readers to understand. Robbins based this story on her relationship with her autistic brother.
Just Right for You: A Story about Autism by Melanie Heyworth and CeART (I am Cadence) (#OwnVoices)
This bright board book works as a positive introduction to the autism spectrum, and its writer and illustrator are both autistic so the take on the subject is genuine.
Easy Chapter Books About Autistic Children For Ages 6-9
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold and Charles Santoso
This is the first in a series of chapter books about a boy nicknamed Bat. In this one, he tries to convince his mom, a veterinarian, to keep the tiny, pink-nosed baby skunk she brings home. Bat is very excited to take care of the cute little critter and is even willing to disrupt his usually strict routines! Bat is a sweet character that kids on the spectrum will be able to relate to.
Super Lexi by Emma Lesko and Adam Winsor
Lexi is a playful and quirky kid who knows what she doesn’t like. For instance, she does not like getting songs stuck in her head, and being watched by people is the worst. The book is very good at giving the reader insight into Lexi’s thinking and reasoning. When Lexi ends up with a solo in the Parent’s Day performance, she is terrified and needs to figure out a way to disappear onstage!
Books About Autism
My Life with Autism by Mari Schuh and Isabel Muñoz
Written from the perspective of Zen, the book explains autism very accessibly, even providing definitions and suggestions for how others can show respect to people on the autism spectrum. The art is bright and appealing, making the book a pleasure to read because of its aesthetics as well as the contents.
Your Interests, My Interests: A Visual Guide to Playing and Hanging Out for Children on the Autism Spectrum by Joel Shaul
This is a visually engaging guide for children on the autistic spectrum, with strategies and suggestions for ways of learning to play with other kids. The book has more pictures than text, and it provides activities, games, and learning sheets with concrete ideas for kids and adults to discuss together.
Nathan’s Autism Spectrum Superpowers by Lori Leigh Yarborough and Natalie Merheb
Based on Yarborough’s son, this taught me a lot about why some people on the spectrum have specific behaviours (e.g. some autistic kids memorize facts easily; however, they can struggle to remember faces because there is so much information to process when they look at someone’s face). There are also boxes of helpful tips aimed at friends — encouraging neurotypical kids to adapt to the needs of their neurodivergent peers.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley (the author interviewed Dr. Temple Grandin to write this book, so sort of #OwnVoices)
Told in charming rhyming verses, Grandin’s story is a good choice if you are looking to empower and inspire kids on the autism spectrum. Grandin didn’t speak until after 3 years old, and her parents weren’t sure she ever would (she eventually did). During her senior year of high school, she invented a hug machine that used boards to apply calming pressure. Now, she is a spokesperson for autism and an important and well-respected figure in the field of modern animal science.
Sensory Books for Children with Autism
Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down by Lindsey Rowe Parker and Rebecca Burgess
This book helps to inform readers about unique ways that some autistic kids process their sensory input. Told from the perspective of a boy on the spectrum and his mom, it brilliantly captures jittery feelings using font formatting and visual cues.
The Beach is Loud by Samantha Cotterill (#OwnVoices)
A little boy and his dad have a beach day together, but the child, who is on the spectrum, struggles with how noisy it is at the busy beach. The formatting of words and varying styles of font are used to emphasize the sounds and sensations the boy is experiencing, giving us the story from his perspective.
Touch and Feel Jungle Animals by Maria Mazas and Camille Roy
Not about autism at all, but an example of a sensory book that might appeal to someone on the spectrum. This is from a series of touch-and-feel books, one that adds facts into the mix. Autistic kids will appreciate the fun, detailed information and the various textures that accompany the images. While it is a board book and those are traditionally aimed at babies, the animal info here is aimed at an older audience of animal lovers.
I hope that this list gives you and your favorite kiddos something satisfying to read together.