I was delighted to find that there are just as many (if not more) picture books about autism and neurodiversity as there are middle grade books. These picture books will help neurotypical readers (kids and adults) understand how neurodiverse minds work. You’ll find children’s books about dyslexia, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, and autism among others.
Great Picture Books About Autism and Neurodiversity
Here are some of the best picture books about autism and other forms of neurodiversity:
The Alphabet War: A Story about Dyslexia
Published: January 1, 2004
When Adam started kindergarten, the teacher wanted him to learn about letters. But “p” looked like “q,” and “b” looked like “d.” Adam would rather color or mold clay. In first grade, his teacher wanted him to put the letters into words so he could read. That was the beginning of the Alphabet War. “Was” looked like “saw,” and “there” looked like “then.” Almost everyone else in his class was learning to read, but Adam was fighting a war against letters.
In second grade, he had to learn to spell, which was also impossible. Now he was so frustrated he got into trouble and had to go to the principal’s office. At last, in third grade, he got the right kind of help. Slowly he began to do better. During fourth grade, he learned that he could excel in other things. That gave him the confidence to take chances with reading. One day he found himself reading a book all by himself!
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures
Published: August 29, 2017
When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is the first book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists. In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Temple herself!
Benji, the Bad Day, and Me
Published: October 9, 2018
Nothing seems to be going right for Sammy today. At school, he got in trouble for kicking a fence, then the cafeteria ran out of pizza for lunch. After he walks home in the pouring rain, he finds his autistic little brother Benji is having a bad day too. On days like this, Benji has a special play-box where he goes to feel cozy and safe. Sammy doesn’t have a special place, and he’s convinced no one cares how he feels or even notices him. But somebody is noticing, and may just have an idea on how to help Sammy feel better.
Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It)
Published: January 26, 2021
Doug doesn’t like hugs. He thinks hugs are too squeezy, too squashy, too squooshy, too smooshy. He doesn’t like hello hugs or goodbye hugs, game-winning home run hugs or dropped ice cream cone hugs, and he definitely doesn’t like birthday hugs. He’d much rather give a high five–or a low five, a side five, a double five, or a spinny five. Yup, some people love hugs; other people don’t. So how can you tell if someone likes hugs or not? There’s only one way to find out: Ask! Because everybody gets to decide for themselves whether they want a hug or not.
A Friend for Henry
Published: February 26, 2019
In Classroom Six, second left down the hall, Henry has been on the lookout for a friend. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend—or will a friend find him? With insight and warmth, this heartfelt story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum celebrates the everyday magic of friendship.
All My Stripes
Published: February 1, 2016
Zane the zebra feels different from the rest of his classmates. He worries that all they notice about him is his “autism stripe.” With the help of his Mama, Zane comes to appreciate all his stripes — the unique strengths that make him who he is!
My Brother Otto
Published: March 19, 2019
My Brother Otto is a child-friendly, endearing, and fun picture book for children about the love, acceptance, and understanding a sister, Piper, has for her little brother Otto, who is on the autism spectrum. The book provides explanations for Otto’s differences and quirkiness in an easy-to-understand language, and highlights Otto’s desires for adventure and love―just like his peers. To be more specific, My Brother Otto is a sweet story about a sister and a brother who engage in common, everyday experiences in their own unique way with the idea that kindness and understanding always win!
The Map Challenge: A Book About Dyslexia
Published: July 16, 2019
When Sammy’s group loses their map on a camping trip, can he use his SEN Superpowers to save the day and lead them safely back to the campsite? SEN Superpowers: The Map Challenge explores the topic of dyslexia with an empowering story and adorable illustrations.
The SEN Superpowers series celebrates the positive traits associated with a range of common SEN (Special Education Needs) conditions, boosting the confidence and strength-awareness of children with those conditions, while also allowing for better understanding and positivity among their peers. Each book includes a page of discussion points about the story, a page of tips for how to boost abilities (inclusive for children with and without special educational needs), and, finally, a further page of notes for parents and teachers. The books feature a dyslexic-friendly font to encourage accessibility and inclusivity for all readers.
Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers!
Published: March 22, 2016
Isaac may look like everyone else, but he actually has superpowers that make him different from his brother and his classmates. Some kids don’t understand that and call him names. But Isaac’s superhero brain remembers loads of things, he has energy enough to bounce on his trampoline for hours, and his ears are so sharp he can even hear the buzzing some lights make in school (ouch!). He tends to say whatever comes into his head and doesn’t realize that he might hurt someone’s feelings — by telling them they have big teeth, for example! Even though he’s not really a superhero — he has Asperger syndrome, which means his brain works a little differently — he does love to play superheroes with his brother, who understands him. Straightforward and engaging, Isaac’s first-person narrative will help kids see the world through the eyes of a child with the high-cognitive type of autism spectrum disorder commonly known as Asperger syndrome.
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
Published: September 3, 2019
Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.
In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
My Brother Charlie
Published: March 1, 2010
“Charlie has autism. His brain works in a special way. It’s harder for him to make friends. Or show his true feelings. Or stay safe.” But as his big sister tells us, for everything that Charlie can’t do well, there are plenty more things that he’s good at. He knows the names of all the American presidents. He knows stuff about airplanes. And he can even play the piano better than anyone he knows.Actress and national autism spokesperson Holly Robinson Peete collaborates with her daughter on this book based on Holly’s 10-year-old son, who has autism.
Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down
Published: April 1, 2021
A Picture Book about Sensory Differences.
The vibration in her feet when she runs, the tap-tap-tap of her fork on the table at mealtime, the trickle of cool water running over her hands–these are the things that calm her jitters down. This book is for anyone who has ever felt the need for a wiggle, stomp, or squeeze! This title is also available in Spanish: Meneos, Pistones, Y Apretones Para Calmar Mi Cosquilleo
Published: August 16, 2011
And you’re there.
And that’s okay.
maybe there will be a gentle wind that pulls us together.
And then I’ll be here and you’ll be here, too.
Nathan’s Autism Spectrum Superpowers
Published: October 9, 2018
The superhero of this book, Nathan, explains his Autism Spectrum superpowers, how they affect him, and ways his friends can help out when his superpowers spiral out of control.
This book is a TOOL written by a mom/pediatric physical therapist to help kids, family, friends and caregivers understand Autism Spectrum and some of the struggles and superpowers associated with it.
The Beach Is Loud
Published: June 18, 2019
Going to the beach is exciting. But it can also be busy. And loud. Sand can feel hot or itchy or sticky…and it gets everywhere! In This Beach Is Loud!, a sensitive boy gets overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds, and sensations at the beach. Luckily, this kiddo’s dad has a trick up his sleeve to help his son face these unexpected obstacles.
Nope, Never, Not for Me!
Published: June 18, 2019
Children are often picky eaters, but for kids on the autism spectrum or with sensory issues, trying new foods can be especially challenging. In Nope! Never! Not for Me! a young child refuses to try a bite of broccoli–that is, until her mom guides her through a careful exploration of the new food. First she looks, then she sniffs, then touches, and finally takes one tiny bite. What do you know? Broccoli isn’t so overwhelming after all!
With simple, reassuring text and bold illustrations in a limited palette, Nope! Never! Not For Me! espouses a patient approach to picky eating and empowers kids to explore new experiences without stress or pressure.
Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues With Autism
Published: April 1, 2020
Holly loves doing experiments and learning new things in science class! But when she finds out the next experiment is making slime, she’s worried. Slime is made with glue, and glue is sticky. Holly has sensory issues because of her autism and doesn’t like anything sticky! With help from family and her teacher, Holly receives the accommodations and encouragement she needs to give slime a try.
Mrs Gorski, I Think I Have The Wiggle Fidgets
Published: May 1, 2018
David gets scolded a lot by his teacher, Mrs. Gorski, for not paying attention in class. He wants to pay attention but it is just so hard when an exciting idea pops into his head. And he usually can’t tell that he’s making a mistake until after he makes them. But after a particularly big mistake, David comes up with his own plan to tone down his wiggle fidgets.
I See Things Differently
Published: September 1, 2014
Are there kids in your life who need a gentle way to learn about autism? This book will show what autism is and how it affects someone who has it. This is a wonderful catalyst for discussion that will help children to better understand and support autistic classmates or siblings.
Parents, teachers, and gift givers will find:
- questions and concerns about autism
- simple and easily accessible material for younger children
- a helpful book written by a psychotherapist and counselor
- a whole series of books for children to explore emotional issues
The A First Look At series promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers, and encourage kids to ask questions and confront social and emotional questions that sometimes present problems. Books feature appealing full-color illustrations on every page plus a page of advice to parents and teachers.
The Boy With Big, Big Feelings
Published: August 20, 2019
Meet a boy with feelings so big that they glow from his cheeks, spill out of his eyes, and jump up and down on his chest. When a loud truck drives by, he cries. When he hears a joke, he bursts with joy. When his loved ones are having a hard day, he feels their emotions as if they were his own. The boy tries to cope by stuffing down his feelings, but with a little help and artistic inspiration, the boy realizes his feelings are something to be celebrated. Written by debut picture book author Britney Winn Lee and boldly illustrated by Jacob Souva, The Boy with Big, Big Feelings is relatable for any child, but especially for children experiencing anxiety and extreme emotions, or who have been diagnosed with autism or as a Highly Sensitive Person.
Published: September 8, 2020
Magnificent Meg will encourage and delight both children and their parents. She shares what helps her the most as a young reader who has dyslexia.
This read-aloud book will reassure struggling young readers that they are talented, important, and that they can succeed if they persevere with the right methods. It encourages children to have a positive mindset, believe in themselves, and never give up. Parents play a vital role in encouraging and supporting their children. Conversation starters help children to talk about their struggles and dreams. Helpful notes at the end of the book equip parents to support their children.
Autism Is ….?
Published: May 2, 2012
In this book for autistic children, Logan overhears his grandma tell her friend he has autism, and he asks her, ”Autism is…?” She explains what autism is to him in this beautifully illustrated story. Children with autism face many challenges and they are often aware of and question their autism. Of course, each child is unique, and you may or may not wish to explain the term autism to your child at a young age. But if you do, this book can help make it easier for you, as it did for the author when explaining autism to Logan. His inquisitive mind wanted to know, and once he read this story, even before it was illustrated, he was happy with this positive explanation and answer to his question.
My Whirling Twirling Motor
Published: March 5, 2019
Charlie feels like he has a whirling, twirling motor running inside him all the time and sometimes he just can’t settle. When his mom wants to talk to him, he figures he’s in trouble…but she has a surprise for him instead! Includes a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers with more information on ADHD, behavior management, and helping children focus on the positives.
How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine
Published: August 28, 2018
As a young girl, Temple Grandin loved folding paper kites, making obstacle courses, and building lean-tos. But she really didn’t like hugs. Temple wanted to be held—but to her, hugs felt like being stuffed inside the scratchiest sock in the world; like a tidal wave of dentist drills, sandpaper, and awful cologne, coming at her all at once. Would she ever get to enjoy the comfort of a hug?
Then one day, Temple had an idea. If she couldn’t receive a hug, she would make one…she would build a hug machine!
Aiden McGee Gets A Case of The Actuallys
Published: May 29, 2019
Does your brilliant child correct you before you’ve even had your coffee?
Aiden has a case of “The Actuallys,” and just can’t help but correct others on the most trivial of facts. Is it a turtle or a tortoise? Is a tomato a fruit? With every misspoken word, Aiden just has to interject, and often it embarrasses the people around him. One day, someone gives him a piece of advice that could change everything. Come find out how to cure “The Actuallys”
Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT Okay
Published: October 21, 2015
Johnny is different. He is never exactly on time, he can’t seem to stick to a routine and he often speaks in cryptic idioms. Johnny is neurotypical, but that’s OK.
A picture book with a difference, Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap turns the tables on common depictions of neurological difference by drolly revealing how people who are not on the autistic spectrum are perceived by those who are. The autistic narrator’s bafflement at his neurotypical friend’s quirks shows that ‘normal’ is simply a matter of perspective.
Published: July 23, 2019
I am movement
Fueled by food
And powered by PLAY!
Unstoppable Me is about the sort of energetic child we all know and love ― full of fun and play…and a bit exhausting! In this book, we see an unstoppable little boy, run, jump, and soar through his day. He takes a little time to refuel, then he’s back at it―zooming and zipping around. From #1 New York Times bestselling author, Susan Verde, comes a poetic and joyful book about the celebration of an active child.
A Friend Like Simon
Published: September 24, 2009
This is a special education childrens picture books that introduces autism. When an autistic child joins a mainstream school, many children can find it difficult to understand and cope with a student that is somewhat ‘different’ to them. This story encourages other children to be mindful and patient of the differences that exist and to also appreciate the positive contribution that an autistic child can make to the group.
Published: October 31, 2013
“Leah’s Voice” is a story that touches on the difficulties children encounter when they meet a child with autism or special needs. Siblings may find it hard to explain to their friends or feel disappointed when others aren’t understanding. This book tells the story of two sisters facing these challenges. Through her kindness and devotion, one sister teaches by example the importance of including everyone and showing acceptance
Noah Chases the Wind
Published: April 14, 2015
Noah knew he was different. He could see things that others couldn’t, like the patterns in the dust that floated down on sunbeams.
Noah is different. He sees, hears, feels, and thinks in ways that other people don’t always understand, and he asks a lot of questions along the way. Noah loves science, especially the weather. His books usually provide him with the answers he needs, until one day, there’s one question they don’t answer—and that is where Noah’s windy adventure begins.
When Things Get Too Loud
Published: August 15, 2021
When the world gets too much Bo feels his Feel-O-Meter go from 1-10. Noises, smells, sounds, the world can be an overwhelming place. One day, Bo’s numbers climb too quickly and all he wants to do is hide. But then he makes a remarkable little friend….When things get too loud is a story about sensory overload, how it feels, what can trigger it and what may help. The Feel-O-Meter provides the child and parents with a visual guide through emotions and the books comes with ideas to cope with overwhelming situations.
Published: September 25, 2019
When some of the brushes don’t cooperate, is it because they are misbehaving…or is there another reason entirely? In this story, young readers are introduced to some of the behavioral differences in their autistic peers.
Without ever mentioning any particular challenge or disability by name, this story helps children recognize and understand what autism is, and impress upon them the importance of showing kindness to those who are different, wrapped into a fun story with lighthearted, engaging characters.
They worked through the day, then stopped and admired,
the wisdom their now-painted canvas inspired:
their painting was perfect, It all meshed just fine,
with it’s colorful circles, and angry green line.
It was a true masterpiece, not one thing was wrong,
including the hum of their single-note song.
You’re So Clumsy Charley
Published: January 30, 2017
Charley always seemed to get into trouble, though he didn’t mean to. He was getting fed up of going to school because he felt different from most of the other kids. Then he met his Aunty Bella. And everything changed.
There they are: 30+ of the best picture books about autism and neurodiversity. Which of these have you read and loved? Which ones did I miss? If you want a middle grade list, here it is.
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