This content contains affiliate links. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through these links.
Autism is still often treated as a taboo subject, so books about autistic children should be a must-read for everyone. People with the autism spectrum can communicate, behave, and learn in different ways than others, and their specific behaviors can vary in form.
This list of books for autistic children is divided into several categories. There are books for and about autistic children, many of them on building and celebrating healthy relationships. Then there are informational books on autism, many of which break down why children on the spectrum respond in certain ways. Finally, there are mind books for autistic children that provide stimulating visual and tactile sensory experiences by teaching about animals, sounds, emotions, and anything else you can think of. I noticed that the book was written by an autistic writer using #OwnVoices.
These books are all aimed at children under the age of 10, and for more books for different ages and in different genres we also have a list of over 50 books on neurodiversity and another shorter list of picture books. While we do our best to actively promote diversity in books and publishing, this list includes fewer authors and illustrators of color than we’d like. But as we see with newer titles like Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged and My Rainbow, hopefully more diverse books about autistic children will appear.
Read books for autistic children
Benji, the Bad Day and Me by Sally J. Pla and Ken Min
This is about the relationship between two brothers: Benji is autistic, Sammy is neurotypical. Sammy is having a bad day and it’s worse because he feels ignored in favor of Benji, which culminates in some tears and self-pity. But when Benji sees his brother crying, he comes to him and comforts him very sweetly. Pla based this story on her own sons, and it’s a gentle reminder that everyone expresses their feelings differently and that sometimes, even if we don’t understand someone else’s ways, we just need to be patient.
The children are doing well Newsletter
Sign up to The Kids Are All Right for news and recommendations from the world of children’s and middle school books.
Thanks for signing up! Keep an eye on your inbox.
Crow cub from Taro Yashima
This award-winning book tells the story of Chibi, a shy child who is not understood by his classmates. Although there is no mention of autism, children still find plenty on the spectrum to relate to. Chibi passes the time by having fun with his own unique interests. While he is initially mocked by the other children, he continues to school. Eventually, a new teacher named Mr. Isobe arrives to teach at the school and he immediately appreciates Chibi’s skills, talents and personality. It is a very vividly illustrated story about learning not to judge people for being different.
Ty the Dinosaur and the substitute teachers from Marcus Tallbergs, Jill C. Faulkner and Klaudia Drabikowska (#OwnVoices)
Ty the T-Rex has a bad day at school when his usual teacher is unexpectedly absent and the proxy fails to calm the class down. Children on the Spectrum can have difficulty adjusting to changes in their routine, and Ty is no exception. After quarreling with a classmate, he is sent to the headmaster’s office; there the headmaster teaches Ty a helpful trick. Co-author Jill C. Faulkner was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child, and according to an interview with her on The Mighty, the story is based on her own experiences as a child, when she was understood by adults as violent, angry, and poorly behaved .
My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal with Art Twink (#OwnVoices)
Trinity is an autistic transgender girl and one day she tells her mother that she needs long hair to be taken seriously by others than girls. The problem is, she hates the feeling of hair touching the back of her neck. Finally, her mother weaves a wig out of multicolored curls in shades of blue-green, pink, and purple. It’s a wonderful celebration of blackness, family and love, written by mother-daughter writing duo DeShanna and Trinity.
Benny doesn’t like to be hugged by Zetta Elliott and Purple Wong
Told in simple rhyming verse that will not overwhelm young children, this is told from the perspective of Benny’s neurotypical best friend and is about loving your friends for their uniqueness. The message will be very uplifting to autistic readers and a wonderful example to their friends.
Why Johnny doesn’t flutter: NT is okay! By Clay Morton, Gail Morton, and Alex Merry
Johnny is neurotypical and the narrator, his friend, is autistic. The narrator compares their behavior from his perspective in a satirical, unexpected role reversal. Although written in a narrative format, this is more of an informational text. Clay and Gail Morton, the authors of the book, are parents of an autistic child and also conduct research on issues of neurodiversity.
A friend to Henry by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song
Henry really wants to make friends, but he’s struggling to understand the other kids at school. He is very particular and that makes him very frustrated in class. Eventually, he befriends a quiet girl named Katie, and they can get along in a calm way that makes him feel good. Bailey based the story on the experience of her autistic son, who also had difficulty making friends at school.
Me and my sister from Rose Robbins
The narrator and his autistic sister love to play together, but he also understands that their relationship can be very complex and constantly changing. It has a really crucial message about love and support that is told in a way that is very easy to understand for young readers. Robbins bases this story on her relationship with her autistic brother.
Just Right For You: A Story About Autism by Melanie Heyworth and CeART (I am Cadence) (#OwnVoices)
This bright blackboard book is a positive introduction to the autism spectrum, and its author and illustrator are both autistic, so the perspective on the subject is real.
Simple chapter books on autistic children ages 6-9
A boy named Fledermaus by Elana K. Arnold and Charles Santoso
This is the first in a series of chapter books about a boy nicknamed Bat. In this one, he tries to convince his mother, a veterinarian, to keep the tiny, pink-nosed baby skunk she brings home. Bat is very excited to take care of the cute little living creature and is even ready to disrupt its normally strict routines! Bat is a cute character that kids on the spectrum can relate to.
Super Lexi by Emma Lesko and Adam Winsor
Lexi is a playful and quirky kid who knows what she doesn’t like. For example, she doesn’t like getting songs stuck in her head, and being watched by people is the worst. The book is very good at giving the reader some insight into Lexi’s thinking and reasoning. When Lexi ends up doing a solo in the Parents Day performance, she is scared and needs to find a way to disappear on stage!
Books on Autism
My life with autism by Mari Schuh and Isabel Muñoz
Written from a Zen perspective, the book explains autism very easily, and even offers definitions and suggestions on how other people on the autism spectrum can show respect. The art is bright and engaging, making the book a delight to read for both its aesthetics and content.
Your Interests, My Interests: A Visual Guide to Playing and Hanging Out for Children on the Autism Spectrum by Joel Shaul
This is a visually engaging guide for children on the autistic spectrum with strategies and suggestions for learning to play with other children. The book contains more pictures than text and offers activities, games and study sheets with specific ideas that children and adults can discuss together.
Nathan’s Autism Spectrum Superpowers by Lori Leigh Yarborough and Natalie Merheb
Based on Yarborough’s son, this taught me a lot about why some people on the spectrum have certain behaviors (e.g. face). There are also boxes of helpful tips for friends that encourage neurotypical children to adapt to the needs of their neurodivergent peers.
The girl who thought in pictures: The story of Dr. Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley (the author interviewed Dr. Temple Grandin to write this book, #OwnVoices so to speak)
Told in charming rhyming verse, Grandin’s story is a great choice if you want to empower and inspire children on the autism spectrum. Grandin didn’t speak for 3 years and her parents weren’t sure she would ever do it (she eventually did). During her senior year of high school, she invented a hug machine that used boards to apply soothing pressure. Today she is a spokesperson for autism and an important and respected figure in the field of modern animal science.
Mind books for children with autism
Wiggles, Stamps and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down by Lindsey Rowe Parker and Rebecca Burgess
This book helps educate readers about the unique ways that some autistic children process their sensory input. Told from the perspective of a boy on the spectrum and his mother, it brilliantly captures nervous feelings with font formatting and visual cues.
The beach is loud by Samantha Cotterill (#OwnVoices)
A young boy and his dad have a beach day together, but the kid on the spectrum struggles with how loud it is on the busy beach. The formatting of words and different fonts are used to emphasize the boy’s sounds and sensations and to tell us the story from his perspective.
Jungle animals touch and feel by Maria Mazas and Camille Roy
Not about autism at all, but an example of a mind book that might appeal to someone on the spectrum. This is from a series of touch-and-feel books that add facts to the mix. Autistic children will appreciate the fun, detailed information, and the various textures that accompany the images. While it is a blackboard book and this is traditionally aimed at babies, the animal info here is aimed at an older audience of animal lovers.
I hope this list provides something satisfying to read together for you and your favorite children.