9 picture books that deserve a shoutout,
this Autism Acceptance Month

Storytime is great for letting your tiny tot’s imagination run wild, but it’s even better for facilitating some social-emotional learning. It’s Autism Acceptance Month, and we’ve rounded up a list of books that help children become more aware of what autism is and how they can truly embrace their autistic peers. We think you’ll learn something too (as did we!). Enjoy!
It’s a bummer when you’re warm in bed with a new picture book and none of the characters on those pages is even remotely like you. But wait. What if one of those characters were exactly like you? What if that character were the star of the story? Autistic children face the sad reality of a lack of accurate representation in popular media. It’s rare that they get to go, “Look, Mom! S/he’s just like me!” How can we help? To mark Autism Acceptance Month, we’re diving into a list of picture books that paint characters with ASDs using honest brush strokes. We’re sure of one thing: at least one of these reads will warm your heart. Let’s have a look at them!

Tacos Anyone?

Marvie Ellis, illustrated by Jenny Loehr
Ideal for kiddos aged 2–6
There are many reasons why this book deserves a mention (and a read!). Written by a pediatric speech-language pathologist, it tells the story of how a little boy named Thomas, with the help of a therapist, starts to understand his autistic baby brother and learns to see the world through his eyes. The result is two happier little boys who enjoy playtime together because it’s no longer one-sided. Tacos Anyone? makes for impactful reading material because it comes from an informed source. It stands out in its space for being a bilingual picture book, written in both English and Spanish. Once you’ve read this 2005 Barbara Jordan Media Award winner to your preschooler, you’ll never be able to look at a taco again without smiling, and that will be a wonderful thing.

My Friend with Autism: Enhanced Edition

Beverly Bishop, illustrated by Craig Bishop
Ideal for kiddos aged 2–7
Adults without autism often struggle to understand adults with autism. If it’s hard for us, imagine just how hard it is for the little ones. My Friend with Autism may be a children’s book, but it’s a terrific guide to embracing autism for kids and grownups alike. Sparse yet cheery illustrations and straightforward writing make this one an informative read. Through these pages, children will improve their understanding of autistic behaviors and will learn how they can contribute to making autistic lives easier. What do we love most about this book? Its closing line! But nope, we won’t spoil it by telling you what it is.

Noah Chases the Wind

Michelle Worthington, illustrated by Joseph Cowman
Ideal for kiddos aged 3–8
Remember that hypothetical scenario we opened this blog with — the one in which an autistic person is the star of the story? It’s not hypothetical anymore! Noah Chases the Wind is a book you can feel, thanks to its immersive illustrations, and yes, perhaps what this story does better than a lot of children’s stories about autism is that it places an autistic child front and center. There’s so much to love about little Noah, but what we love most (and what Michelle Worthington herself hopes for) is that children on the autism spectrum “will recognize a part of themselves” in him. We think it will be a part that’s special and beautiful!

Autism Is...?

Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan, illustrated by Rob Feldman
Ideal for kiddos aged 4–8
You know what we had never done before we came across Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan’s Autism Is…?? We had never stopped to wonder whether autistic children understand themselves. There couldn’t be a sweeter way to open up this conversation than the way Laan has done in this delicate little picture book. Explained in grandma’s words, autism becomes a thing of beauty. Autism Is…? has managed to capture the perfect snapshot of a condition that’s so hard to put into words. Honestly, this one isn’t just for children. The person writing this blog is a full-grown human, and they found it helpful too.

Benji, the Bad Day, and Me

Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Ken Min
Ideal for kiddos aged 4–8
While curating this list of picture books, we knew we’d come across titles that would move us, but we didn’t expect to be moved to tears. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me tells us how young Samuel has had a bad day that only seems to be getting worse, and just when he thinks no one’s taking notice, the unexpected happens. Through this story, Sally J. Pla hasn’t only managed to create a faithful representation of autism and the selfless role family members play in the lives of autistic children; she has also painted a poignant portrait of the love children with autism are capable of. We’re SO thankful this picture book exists!

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

Daniel Share-Strom, illustrated by Naghmeh Afshinjah
Ideal for kiddos aged 4–8
It’s easy to make friends with someone who is like you, but what do you do when the other person is not just different from you but won’t even acknowledge your presence beside them? Little Jamie finds herself faced with this exact question. She wants to play with a little boy who has autism, but he won’t even look at her when she’s speaking to him. What does she do? She has a brainwave! That’s one of two things we absolutely LOVE about this picture book: its ah-ha moment. What’s the other thing we love? You have to turn the book upside down to read a couple of its pages (makes for a spot of fun)!

Dragon and His Friend: A Dragon Book About Autism

Steve Herman
Ideal for kiddos aged 4–8
Good picture books are cherished not only for their adorable characters and enchanting illustrations; they are treasured also because of the messages they carry. One among a hit collection of dragon stories by Steve Herman aimed at imparting social-emotional learning, Dragon and His Friend: A Dragon Book About Autism carries a message that’s just as powerful as a dragon, “We don’t have to be the same in order to be fair.” If this is your child’s first encounter with Diggory Doo the dragon (It was ours too), they’re sure to fall in love with him (We did too!). But more importantly, they’ll also learn a thing or two about autism.

My Wandering Dreaming Mind

Merriam Sarcia Saunders, illustrated by Tammie Lyon
Ideal for kiddos aged 4–8
We met a special-needs male protagonist in Noah Chases the Wind. In My Wandering Dreaming Mind, we meet a special-needs female protagonist, an important step forward in representing individuals with special needs accurately in children’s literature. Sadie knows her mind wanders, making her a distracted little thing, but she’s a curious little thing too. That’s why she asks her parents why her mind wanders. And how sweet their responses are! Merriam Sarcia Saunders has penned a lovely little story in this one, but we couldn’t help but get completely lost in the details of Tammie Lyon’s unique illustrations. Tammie has gone above and beyond to help us see the very things Sadie sees, not just the things that are visible to everyone else. How awesome is that?!

Since We're Friends: An Autism Picture Book

Celeste Shally, illustrated by David Harrington
Ideal for kiddos aged 4–8
Friendship is wonderful. It’s wonderful among people who are similar, but it’s far more wonderful when they differ in major ways. Our final entry in this list gets so many things right. It tells us how a neurotypical child goes that extra mile for an autistic child not out of sympathy but because they’re friends! The illustrations are glorious, with popping colors and clever details. But what struck us most was the fact that instead of merely celebrating differences, this book highlights a key similarity: the kids’ shared interests (We’re not that different after all!).
There’s a long way for us to go in representing autistic individuals appropriately in literature and art, but we hope with these nine picture books, little ones on the spectrum get their “Look, Mom! S/he’s just like me!” moment. If such a moment occurs with your kiddo, write to us at support@kiddopia.com and tell us all about it!
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