Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Picture Books to Share During April-Autism Awareness Month

This is a slightly updated post originally posted last April.

April is Autism Awareness Month.  While most people are fully aware of autism, I think it is time we also teach our young children more about this perplexing condition. As a teacher and a mother of an 8 year-old with autism, it is important to me that people move beyond tolerance to accepting and celebrating our children as they are.  Since the students of today will be caring for our kids as adults, it is important that they learn how to effectively interact with and accept people with autism.  Below are a few short picture books that could be shared as classroom read alouds (most of them are appropriate K-5). Some have sparked rich discussions in my classroom. 

I would like to thank the Autism Society of Maine and its lending library for providing me with some of the books below.  Please visit ASM here.

Click on the titles to learn more about the book on

Books About Siblings

Ian's Walk by Laurie Lears

This book follows big sister Julie as she takes her brother Ian for a walk through the park.  Ian is not interested in things that many children like.  He is more interested in a ceiling fan at a restaurant along the way and smelling the bricks than the baseball game, flowers and food carts at the park.  This book does a great job with describing the differences in sensory processing that Ian demonstrates.  When Ian wanders off, Julie panics and must think like Ian in order to find him. 

by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Holly Robinson Peete is well know and respected in the autism community as a fierce advocate and parent supporter.  This book was written with her daughter and is based on Peete's son who has autism.  I love this book because it touches upon Charlie's challenges, but it also highlights his strengths. He can play the piano beautifully, knows a ton about airplanes and can name all the US presidents! 

by Alexandra Jessup Altman

In this touching story, Alexander is the older brother of Benjamin who is diagnosed with autism.  Alexander wants Benjamin to play with him, but Benjamin does not know how to play like most children.  As Benjamin starts to get therapies in the home, Alexander has to deal with his feelings of jealousy and frustration.  It has a nice ending as the two brothers find ways to relate to each other.

Friendship and School-Based Books 
The Friendship Puzzle:Helping Kids Learn About Accepting and Including Kids with Autism
by Julie L. Coe, Jennifer Maloni and Rebecca Landa
Illustrated by Sondra L. Brassel
Dylan is a new kid at school who has autism. Mackenzie tries to befriend him, but is confused about why he does not respond to her. Mackenzie and her helpful mother try to solve what they call "the friendship puzzle". I really liked how this book showed that it can take some creativity and persistence to figure out the best ways to include friends with autism. 

 How to Talk to an Autistic Kid
by Daniel Stephanski

Daniel is a child with high functioning autism.  In his book he describes some reasons why people with autism may act differently.  More importantly, he offers advice on how to interact with a child with autism.  Topics include personal space, intense interests and sensory difficulties.  

by Celeste Shally
I highly recommend this book.  It is a great example of how one understanding friend can make a world of difference in the life of a child with autism. It provides great examples of ways to make a friendship work through compromise, compassion and acceptance.

Looking After Louis
by Leslie Ely
This is the story of Louis and his wonderful, supportive class.  Louis has autism and his class wants to include him more at school.  Through some creative thinking and a special soccer game, the students find a way to connect with and include him. 

by Andreanna Edwards
I like this book because it takes some mystery about how some students with autism spend their day at school. Many students wonder what activities a child with autism might be involved in when they leave the classroom.  This book shows some activities and gives a glimpse of what a school might look like for a child with autism.

by Kate Gaynor 
When Simon arrives at a new school, his classmates must learn to accept and embrace his differences. This book focuses on acceptance and how a child with autism can positively contribute to a classroom community. 

Other Books 
I am Utterly Unique:Celebrating the Strengths of Children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism
by Elaine M. Larson
This book is written in a simple alphabet format with big illustrations. It serves as a great reminder of the gifts and talents of children with higher-functioning autism.

by Janet C. McGregor
I really like the fact that the main character in this book is an adult.  He likes to watch cars go by and is thrilled when anyone honks or waves.  I think it is a great reminder that it only takes a simple gesture to make someone else happy. 

by Roz Espin
This book is one of my new favorite picture books.  It is not specifically about autism, but about differences.   Alphie is a computer that is "wired differently". He has trouble performing  required tasks adequately. He begins to think that he is defective and worthless until he meets a human who believes he is worth fixing.  Finally Alphie realizes that he has much to offer and that his differences make him special.  

Here are a few sites that you might like to check out. A nice, simple explanation of autism.

Books I love as a parent and teacher: 

I bought several copies of this book after my son's diagnosis and made all our family members read it. Click on the cover to learn more about it. There is also a newer updated version.

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew is a valuable resource for teachers of all ages. 

Anything books by Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison are very helpful for adults trying to understand autism. 

There are so many books out there and these are just a few. Which books about autism do you like to read with your students or children?


  1. Gigi, I had no idea there are so many wonderful picture books available. We have many kinds of students at my school, covering the wide spectrum of autism & asperger's. I will certainly share. There are many here, but could you message me or answer here which ones you might recommend first (top 3 maybe). I didn't know you had a child with autism, both a delight and a challenge, right? Thank you for sharing these great resources.

    1. Thanks Linda, I will send you a Facebook message. Yes indeed autism has it's challenges, thankfully my little guy is happy and sweet 95% of the time. That is more than I can say for my 12 year-old :)

  2. Great list - thank you!

  3. This is awesome. I have a nephew with autism and I am always wishing that people could understand how brilliant he is. The child is a genius, but the only thing people see is that he is a "social misfit". It's sad. It's ignorant. It is much better now that he is older, but even now people expect him to "act" a certain way. I just wish people could see how beautiful they and complex those sweet children are! This is such a great idea. Thanks so much for sharing :)