Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Useful Resources for How to Explain Autism to Kids

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Autism back to school tips & resources

Whether you are explaining autism to a sibling or explaining autism to an autistic child, it's important to explain autism to a child in simple terms that are developmentally and age appropriate. These resources will help you explain autism to a child.

At some point, either as a parent or an educator, you might encounter a question such as this:

"How do I explain autism to a child?"

Or maybe you've wondered how to explain autism to an autistic child...

I know both of my sons have had lots of questions about autism over the years and we've always had an open dialogue about autism in our house.

Below, I share some tips and resources for how to explain autism in simple terms so that you can be prepared to have these conversations in your own home or classroom.

Resources and tips for how to explain autism to a child in simple terms

How to Explain Autism to Kids: Useful Tips

When it comes to introducing autism to your kids, there are a few things to keep in mind. These tips will help you explain autism in simple terms to kids.

  • Explain autism in a way that is developmentally and age appropriate
  • Focus on the positives
  • Be specific and pragmatic when describing autism and its traits
  • Speak about autism matter-of-factly and avoid these autism myths
  • Read books about autism to your child (see suggestions below)
  • Watch a video about autism with your child (see suggestions below)
  • Answer any of the questions your child has honestly and as specifically as possible
  • Include your autistic child (if applicable) in the conversation
  • Don't pathologize autism
  • Embrace autism from a neurodiversity perspective (i.e., explain autism as part of the normal variation in the human population)
For even more ideas, I encourage you to read 5 Tips for Explaining Disabilities & Autism to Kids.

Book Lists to Help Explain Autism to Kids

One of the best ways to help kids understand autism is to read books to your children. Look for books that talk about autism, feature autistic characters, and/or highlight how being different and unique is a good thing. Here are a few book lists to help you get started.

1. List of Awesome Autism Picture Books - My favorite selections.

2. Books Featuring Autistic Characters - A few of the books on this list would be great for reading out loud in a classroom or at home, while some of the others are better suited for teens or older.

3. List of Problematic Autism Books - Not all autism books are created equal. Here are some of the autism books to avoid and why.

Videos for Explaining Autism in Simple Terms to Children

The video "Amazing Things Happen" is by far the best video to help explain autism to a child (even adults too, really). It's a nice short video that's extremely information. It is also available in a variety of languages. You can see all the available translations here. There's even one in sign language!


If you are wanting to explain autism to kids that are younger like under age five, then this video might be a better fit. It doesn't go too in depth about autism, but mentions a couple of useful tips that will help kids better understand how to interact with autistic children. It's not perfect, by any means (e.g., I wish it would say Julia is autistic vs has autism), but it is a good starting point for the younger crowd.


The video "Marvelous Max" also does a pretty good job of explaining autism in an age-appropriate manner. It's a short video too.



Social Stories to Help Explain Autism to Kids

These printable resources will help you explain autism to kids.

1. My Friend is Autistic Social Story - Geared towards kids who have an autistic friend.

2. I Am Autistic Social Story - Written for an autistic child to learn more about what being autistic means.

3. My Brother/Sister is Autistic Social Story - Two different versions for siblings to read and better understand their autistic sibling.

Other Autism Resources You'll Love




Resources and tips for how to explain autism to a child in simple terms
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