Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Best Autism Picture Books for Kids

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Looking for picture books about autism for kids? These are, hands-down, the best autism books you'll find!

As a parent of an autistic child, I've been on a mission lately to find the best darn picture books about autism.

And it's proving to be a bit of a challenge because there is a lot of junk out there...

It seems like for every good one I do find, I had to read about 7-10 absolutely terrible ones first...

In fact, there's lots of autism picture books I couldn't even bring myself to finish reading because of poor wording or misinformation they presented in the opening pages.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that I occasionally rip some autism picture books to shreds (not literally!) in my stories...I'll point out what's wrong with some of these picture books so you know which autism picture books to avoid.

But, don't worry, I'm not here to share those terrible books with you, as tempting as that might be. However, after many requests, I have since started that not-so-good autism book list here.

Anyway, here are my absolute favorite autism books for kids. These books truly represent the spectrum and feature both female and male autistic characters, as well as autistic persons of color.

Oh, and hey, if you're looking for chapter books for older kids that feature autistic characters, then I've got you covered too! You'll definitely want to check out this book list of fiction and chapter books featuring autistic characters.

Autism books for kids

About this Autism Picture Books List

Here's what you need to know about this book list:

  • I originally shared my favorite autism picture books over at CBC Parents so some of the books I mention below will suggest you click to read that post for more details. But I have obviously found some new suggestions since I originally wrote that post for them.
  • This list will be continually added to as I find and discover new picture books about autism, but here are my absolute favorites! 
  • Unlike other lists of autism books for kids you'll come across, I've actually read every single book on this list. I didn't pick them blindly!
  • These are books I would actually read - and have read - to my autistic son and his brother.
  • This book list was updated on December 8, 2020 to include two new titles: Just Right for You & Do You Want to Play?
** Please note that one book pictured in some old Pinterest images has since been removed. I admit that I wasn't able to spot the problems in the book "My Brother Charlie" at first (spotting ableism is tricky when you're still learning!) and the book is no longer one that I would recommend. It has been removed from this list here. Look at me being human and admitting my faults ;) **

The Best Picture Books About Autism for Kids

Just Right for You: A Story About Autism

1. Just Right for You: A Story About Autism

By Melanie Heyworth
Illustrated by CeART (I am Cadence)

This picture book is absolutely fantastic! It is geared towards introducing your autistic child to their autism diagnosis and is just beautiful. I seriously love this book and think it's perfect. The art is adorable and colorful too. Highly recommend owning this book!

Do you want to play? autism book

2. Do You Want to Play? Making Friends with an Autistic Kid

By Daniel Share-Strom
Illustrated by Naghmeh Afshinjah

When I first started reading this book, I thought it had a printing error because a couple of pages are upside down. Turns out, it was intentional and for a great reason: to help you see something from someone else's perspective. Brilliant, really. And the book is really, really good. It's a great book to share with classmates, friends, and even siblings of autistic kids. Definitely a great choice for a teacher to share with their class.

Why Johnny Doesn't Flap - autism picture books

3. Why Johnny Doesn't Flap: NT is Ok!

By Clay & Gail Morton
Illustrated by Alex Merry

This book is not like the rest on this list, but it is easily one of my favorites! You can learn more about why I love this picture book over at CBC Parents.

Benny Doesn't Like to Be Hugged - picture books for children with autism

4. Benny Doesn't Like to Be Hugged

By Zetta Elliott
Illustrated by Purple Wong

I thought this book is really great for a variety of reasons. I love that it features an autistic child who is also a person of color. Representation matters!

I love the simple format of the book with one line of text (too much text would have overwhelmed my son when he was younger so I know this book would have been a fantastic read for him when he was a toddler).

I also love that this book mentions many of the sensory processing issues that are common in autistic children.

And, finally, I love the overall messages of it's okay to be different and that it's important to accept your friends for who they are.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures - children's books about autism

5. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

By Julia Finley Mosca
Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

I am well aware of the autistic adult's community's concerns about Dr. Temple Grandin herself, but I do think this picture book is still a great read. Especially when the selection of autism picture books featuring female autistics is so small. You can learn more about why I like this picture book over at CBC Parents.

All My Stripes - books about autism for kids

6. All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism

By Shaina Rudolph & Danielle Royer
Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

This autism picture book was one of the first that I ever read to my boys many years ago. It's also one that seems to be readily available at libraries, which is good. The illustrations are cute and the story is really good. Want to learn more about this book? Read more of my thoughts over at CBC Parents.

Noah Chases the Wind - books for autism kids

7. Noah Chases the Wind

By Michelle Worthington
Illustrated by Joseph Cowman

The artwork in this book is just beautiful! I go into a bit more detail over at CBC Parents so click here to read my thoughts about this particular book.

Different Like Me - books for kids with autism

8. Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes

By Jennifer Elder
Illustrated by Marc Thomas & Jennifer Elder

This book features lots of biographies of autistic people, including females, males, and even a person of color. So lots of diversity within its pages!

It does, however, have a lot of text and isn't like a traditional picture book like the rest on this list.

But it's a great book for kids who need reassurance that being different is okay or need to find a person to relate to that is just like themselves.

Sensory Like You picture book for children with autism

9. Sensory Like You

By Rachel S. Schneider
Illustrated by Kelly Dillon

A blogging friend of mine recommended this book to me and I'm so glad she did.

Both the author and the illustrator have sensory processing disorder themselves and they did a great job introducing the topic of sensory processing to kids.

They describe all of the different senses, even interoception, and even go into detail about how a brain with sensory issues functions.

A great book for introducing your child's diagnosis to them, by the way!

Looking after Louis picture book about autism

10. Looking After Louis

By Lesley Ely
Illustrated by Polly Dunbar

There's lots of good things to highlight in this book, but you'll have to read my thoughts on this picture book over at CBC Parents.

We're Amazing 1,2,3! children's book about autism

11. We're Amazing 1,2,3! A Story About Friendship and Autism

By Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Marybeth Nelson

This picture book isn't amazing like the title would imply, but I do think it is a pretty solid first book about autism for the younger crowd.

What I do like is that it features an autistic girl, Julia, as a main character. I also like that Elmo is respectful and gives practical strategies to his friend Abby about how to be a good friend to Julia.

One thing I don't like about this book is that Julia is given some pretty stereotypical autistic traits like lining up toys, spinning objects, and hand flapping. It's not necessarily a bad thing, per se, just something I wanted to point out.

Overall, it's still a fairly good, and positive, autism picture book.

Through the Eyes of Me autism picture book review

12. Through the Eyes of Me

By Jon Roberts
Illustrated by Hannah Rounding

About a young autistic girl named Kya. This book is filled with colorful illustrations and describes lots of common autistic traits such as stimming, lining up toys, and trouble communicating. A great book to share with an autistic child.

Through the Eyes of Us picture book about autism

13. Through the Eyes of Us

By Jon Roberts
Illustrated by Hannah Rounding

This is the follow up to "Through the Eyes of Me" and features two autistic girls who are friends. In this book, the author shows us how autism looks different in each and every autistic person and reminds us that no two autistic people are the same. Like his other book, this one contains bright and colorful illustrations.

Some other details that I loved: highlights an aide in the text and pictures; shows lots of accommodations that autistic people might have/use like picture cards and a fidget bag; how the word echolalia is written on the chalkboard in the background on the page that describes how one girl, Martha, likes to copy what the teacher is saying.

Benji, The Bad Day, and Me autism book for kids

14. Benji, The Bad Day, and Me

By Sally J. Pla
Illustrated by Ken Min

Sammy is neurotypical and has an absolutely terrible day, but no one seems to notice or care. Or at least, that's what he thinks! His little brother Benji comes to the rescue, showing us that yes, autistics can be empathetic, despite what the stereotypes say.

Nowhere in the text's story does it mention that Benji is autistic, but it is heavily implied and clarified in the author's note at the end of the book).

The illustrations are really cute and I love how this book highlights how proprioceptive sensory input has a calming effect and is beneficial for lots of kids. It would be a great read for siblings.

I Like Dinosaurs Too! picture book for a child with autism

15. I Like Dinosaurs Too!

By Mandy Farmer
Illustrated by Emily Neff

I won this book in a Facebook giveaway from the author and I was so excited to check it out.

Written from the point of view of an autistic child, this book explains common autistic traits in positive ways. I also like how the text emphasizes that even though an autistic child may act or talk a bit differently, they're just as human as you and I with real feelings. A notion that some people seem to need reminders about.

There's one minor line of text that bothers me, but the rest of the book is really great!

Leah's Voice children's autism book

16. Leah's Voice

By Lori DeMonia
Illustrated by Monique Turchan

The author sent me a copy of this book to review after seeing this blog post. All opinions are my own and 100% honest, as always. After reading it, I decided that it deserved a spot on this list.

This book would be great for siblings to read as it features Leah and Logan, two sisters. It's so nice to see female autistics represented in literature, but I do think some of the language is dated in this book. For instance, it uses person first language vs identify first language. And emphasized the word disorder, which doesn't really vibe well with my neurodiversity perspective. Two minor word choices though.

However, there are some real gems in this book like how Logan stands up for her sister by saying, "Why don't you stop talking about her like she isn't here and treat her like everyone else?" Is it realistic that a young girl would say this? Probably not, but it's a statement that many adults could learn from.

Another thing I liked was how Logan's friend Abby asked for consent before hugging Leah.

There is a lot of text in this book making it a bit wordier than some of the others on this book list. And sometimes the story seemed rushed, like how the parents quickly told Logan about her sister's autism diagnosis. But overall, I still think it's a good little book.

** The book "My Brother Charlie" is shown in older Pinterest images, but has since been removed from this book list due to its subtle ableism and other problems (like I didn't read the information section at the end for instance - my bad for missing that!). **

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The best autism picture books for kids