A recurring news story in recent years — particularly since the 2020 COVID pandemic — is the rise in ADHD diagnoses. Predictably, some media outlets have taken the ableist route of framing this increase as a result of “attention-seeking” or “wanting to be special” instead of considering that, perhaps, more people are being diagnosed with ADHD because society at large is finally realising that this neurodivergence exists in all groups, rather than simply “young white cis boys who have a lot of energy”. This has led to even more of the best children’s books about ADHD being published.
I’m one of those people who realised at a later age that my brain perhaps didn’t work in an entirely neurotypical way, and I’m currently on the assessment waiting list for both ADHD and autism. Looking back, my ADHD symptoms have been present throughout my life — as a child, I was constantly daydreaming, getting so immersed in my thoughts that on more than one occasion I came back to reality in an empty classroom because everyone had got bored of trying to get my attention and left. I had a series of deep and overwhelming interests that I would flit between, and if I ever felt that someone was even mildly annoyed with me, I would be utterly emotionally crushed (still am, to be completely honest). I had many of the signs of ADHD associated with cis girls but, thanks to the time I grew up in, it wasn’t identified.
Nowadays, a wider range of ADHD symptoms are understood, and the rise in diagnoses are partly because ADHD is now being recognised in kids and adults of colour and all genders. Representation in media is improving, too — while it’s still not perfect, and white cis boys are still most frequently portrayed, there are increasing numbers of stories about and by people with ADHD of all demographics. Most positively, many of these stories do not make the character’s ADHD the entire narrative; instead, it’s part of their character, with all of its positives and negatives. Here are some of the best children’s books about ADHD currently out there.
Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll
McNicoll’s second novel is another compelling story that centres neurodivergent kids and celebrates them for who they are. In this sci-fi-esque tale, Cora, a young autistic girl, befriends Adrien, a boy with ADHD. Adrien’s father is the CEO of Pomegranate Technologies, a company creating AI versions of deceased people to allow them to live on. At first, Cora and Adrien are excited to experience this new technology, however, it’s soon revealed that there is a dark side to Pomegranate’s plans that specifically targets neurodivergent people.
It’s the End of the World and I’m In My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds
This hilarious book sees 12-year-old Eddie come up with a genius plan: to avoid chores all summer, specifically laundry, by wearing every item of clothing he owns during the break. Eddie’s plan is going swimmingly, until suddenly, the apocalypse begins, and all he has left to wear is his bathing suit. Eddie and his friends must uncover the mystery of what has happened to all the other people in their neighbourhood, who seem to have disappeared without a trace. Eddie has ADHD, and his neurodivergence is explored as part of his character, without being portrayed as a problem for him to overcome.
Just Like Me by Louise Gooding, Illustrated by Caterina delli Carri, Angel Chang, Cathy Hookey and Melissa Iwai
Just Like Me is a beautifully illustrated nonfiction book containing biographies of a number of different famous disabled and neurodivergent people. It includes a section on gymnast Simone Biles, who has ADHD. The book focuses on how differences should be celebrated and seen as part of who we are, and on how disabilities and neurodivergence are not negative, but a part of an individual.
Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
Dealing with PTSD and family relationships, Each Tiny Spark follows Emilia, a girl who is trying to reconnect with her father after he returns home from deployment. Emilia and her father bond over working in the family auto shop, and Emilia’s ADHD helps her hyperfocus on the work they’re doing.
Welcome to Superhero School by Gracie Dix
Written by an author with ADHD, Welcome to Superhero School is a high-action adventure following twins Oliver and Jess as they learn to use their superpowers to defeat the Vork. Following the two heroes through a multitude of different environments and perilous situations, Welcome to Superhero School is a fun middle grade read that all kids will enjoy.
Animated Like Me by Rayna Best
Children with ADHD can sometimes struggle making friends, potentially being seen as “too loud” or “too much”. In this cute book, Rayna Best reflects this situation, following the adventures of zebra Kamron, whose peers think that he’s too “animated”. However, Kamron meets a kindred spirit in Kamille, who, like him, has ADHD.
ADHD is Our Superpower: The amazing talents and skills of children with ADHD by Soli Lazarus, Illustrated by Adriana Camargo
The discussion about whether framing neurodivergence as a superpower is helpful or not is complex and ongoing, and doesn’t have a clear answer. That said, this nonfiction book is a great read aimed at giving a boost to children who may have struggles related to having ADHD in a neurotypical-centric world. It discusses the strengths that children with ADHD might have, and also contains strategies for dealing with things that the reader might find difficult.
Baxter Turns Down His Buzz: A story for little kids about ADHD by James M. Foley, Illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez
Impulsiveness is one of the central features of ADHD, and one that can sometimes cause difficulties. This sweet picture book, following a highly impulsive rabbit called Baxter, teaches meditation and visualisation techniques that can help children learn to slow things down and avoid making impulsive decisions that may have unwanted consequences for them in the long term.
If you’re a parent of a child with ADHD and are looking for support, then try our list of 8 Great Books for Parents of Children with ADHD. Recently received your own diagnosis? Check out our recommendations on So You Or a Loved One Was Diagnosed With ADHD.