The best books featuring autistic characters
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- This is an unpolished book list for patreon-supporters, where I keep in-progress notes about books before I can water them down for the public. It’s gonna be full of typos and anger.
- We’re only 1/3 into hell month and already I can’t even.
- Seeing people link to, suggest, and boost allistic voices that speak over us – talking about us (and how awful we are), without us – I’ve been panting with rage at least three days now. I go to sleep hopeless and wake up enraged and sweaty. The rest of this is probably just going to be angry word salad.
- This post will contain destigmatizing, normalizing, and validating books only – not problematic books.
- Also see:
Quick & Messy Book List:
Explicitly educational books that teach kids what autism is.
- Neurodivergent Narwhals – This book isn’t out yet (Lei is trying to self-publish while raising a family and several other organizations), but when it does, it will be epic. Also you can follow the Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Library on facebook and see all the adorable and sassy narwhals schooling us on autism and ableism before the book comes out.
- The Girl Who Thought In Pictures – Temple Grandin is a wealthy white supremacist who loves the autistic savant trope and believes non-verbal autistics and folks with disabilities who can’t be used to profit allistics should be tossed into the rubbish. AND – this is the only book I can find on autistic women’s history, so this is what we will settle for – for now. The book and story itself are decent, it’s more inclusive than Grandin herself, and doesn’t include her grosser values.
- ‘Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap‘ gives non-autistic readers a taste of what it feels like to be treated as inferior because of our neurodivergence. Intended to be a tounge-in-cheek parody of popular kids books, maybe avoid reading it to allistic kids, because it will make them feel deficient. The condescending tone creates a learning device for adults and older kids.
- What very Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew (for adults) includes a compilation of articles written by autistic girls, collected and published by the Autism Women’s Network. It’s not a picture book, but it’s so great, every single parent of an autistic child should read it, so I’m including it here. Additional keywords: Consent, boundaries, presuming competence, centering, preventing sexual assault, forced institutionalizing, non-speaking self-advocacy, ‘locked in’ stereotypes,
- ‘I’ll Tell You Why I Can’t Wear Those Clothes‘ is a workbook helping kids with sensory processing disorders (SPD) and children without SPD empathize with them. The maker took great pains to use sensory-soothing paper, images, and binding, which results in a keepsake book so gorgeous it’s almost too nice to write in.
- ‘Benny Doesn’t Like To be Hugged‘ is centered from a non-disabled girl about her autistic friend, but the overall message is of acceptance. The end-notes, in particular, are a fantastic guide for how to listen to #OwnVoices when you’re writing outside your own experience.
- Click here for biographies of disabled heroes.
- Click here for more didactic-style books destigmatizing disability.
- All my stripes – AEngaging, cute story centered from the perspective of a speaking autistic zebra. The LE loved the illustrations, and it focused on positives, accepting parents, and the benefits of Zane the zebra’s autistic mind. After a hard day at school, Zane tells his mom about how his social differences made him feel alienated from the class. His mom doesn’t negate or try to change him – instead, she points out the many beneficial parts of his personality, and how autism is a part of who he is but it’s not the defining thing about him. CW for person-first language. There were also some graphic inconsistencies. The illustrator highlights a few patterns of stripes supposedly corresponding to his personality. In real ‘pictures’ of Zane, these patterns aren’t visible on his body and given the size of the patterns, are unlikely to be hidden by clothing. For people who take this kind of thing literally (which is a staple of the autistic mind) that was super irritating for the autistics in our family. It’s unsettling. Omissions like that make it clear that the illustrator isn’t autistic and autistics weren’t given a (coercion-free, or perhaps any) opportunity to sit with this book and detect issues before it went to print.
- Sometimes noise is big – dunn- didactic and not at all entertaining, but it was simple and quick way to show a few things that autistic people deal with that allistic people might not. the phrase ’sometimes’ also leaves space to recognize that we often have various levels of spoons to handle overwhelm and it’s not going to be 100% of the time (which is something allistics forget, and they assume because we could handle a concert once, we are misbehaving when we can’t handle one the next week – also see Noah The Narwhal). interestingly both 4.5 allistic and 6.5 autistic insisted they didn’t need to read books like this – presuming they already know everything because they are allistic/autistic. How very human of them.
- Also see: Stories about autism (for allistic kids) collection
Books that feature autistic (or autistic-coded) characters without making autism the sole identifying feature of a character.
- They She He Me: Free to be! – Features a character who wears earmuffs.
- Charlotte And The Quiet Place
- A Boy Called Bat – click through for a detailed analysis
- Click here for a broader post on featuring books normalizing disabled characters
- Benji, the bad day, and me – this is spectacular. this is the kind of book we need for allistic siblings. Benji is the hero, saving his big brother. validates that allistic kids need support just like autistic kids AND yes, autistic kids often do need assistance beyond what’s expected for the average NT kid. but this story is more about brotherhood and sibling rivalry, envy, and the gloominess of being age 6/7. in later reads, we were able to discuss how his perception of himself as a victim is slightly flawed – he was responsible for the things that happened. but it’s still okay to feel shitty about it. it’s okay to cry about it. in fact – crying about it and being visibly upset helps his brother show that he cares. siblings, healthy masculinity, brothers. I LOVE THIS. disability, autism (never labeled until end notes) there’s even a subtle dig at the therapy class that seems ineffective – benji never participates and the general sense is that it might even be a waste of time.) but leaves it open for people who choose compliance or choose inclusion to discuss it, we chose to go the ABA is abusive compliance and ableism-driven route. AAPI illustrator (appears east asian), author is white woman and allistic parent. healthy sibling relationships
Books for autistic kids to validate their experiences navigating a world that is not inclusive, accommodating, and accepting of autism and autistic people.
Click through for the rough draft list of validating stories for autistic kids.
Books that feed into stereotypes and damaging tropes about autistic people.
I’m too tired for this. But you can find a breakdown of several common ableist tropes and supremacy in the following posts:
- Allism & Neurotypicality: Allistic-centered stories about autism