The best children’s books for neurodiversity/autism representation

Sally J. Pla Author Of The Someday Birds
By Sally J. Pla

The Books I Picked & Why

A Boy Called Bat

By Elana K. Arnold, Charles Santoso

A Boy Called Bat

Why this book?

Bat is a sweet young autistic boy who lives with his big sister and veterinarian-mom (and weekends with his loving dad). He adopts and helps raise a baby skunk. The lovely, simple story – aimed at younger, chapter-book readers -- describes Bat’s autism so naturally. This is how I believe all stories of neurodivergent kids should be written: in a way that illuminates and humanizes and shows us what we share – not in a way that pathologizes, or others, or highlights a laundry list of symptoms. 

The Bat stories are charming and simple, and they get it right.


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M Is for Autism

By The Student Of Limpsfield Grange School, Vicky Martin

M Is for Autism

Why this book?

M. is an autistic teen girl who desperately wants to be just like everyone else. Who longs to know the proper things to say and do.

And this was me. I was an undiagnosed autistic girl who longed to know the “right” ways to be/talk/act/feel, who never could quite de-code social situations or feel like I fit in.

Written collaboratively with the autistic girls who attend the Limpsfield-Grange School and their teacher, Vicky Martin, this book captured something special about the tricky social dilemmas of young teendom, something that resonated so deeply in me – I loved its truth-telling, and how funny and sad it was in turns – that’s how I write, too.


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Fifty-Four Things Wrong with Gwendolyn Rogers

By Caela Carter

Fifty-Four Things Wrong with Gwendolyn Rogers

Why this book?

Young Gwendolyn Rogers struggles in middle school and with friends. She’s impulsive and makes poor decisions – and longs for a clear diagnosis of ADHD. Author Caela Carter, who has ADHD herself, lets us slip inside her character in such a fascinating way. We see how much Gwendolyn longs to get things right, how much she cares about her family and friends, even though she makes mistakes and does things to annoy them.


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A Kind of Spark

By Elle McNicoll

A Kind of Spark

Why this book?

Addie is a young autistic girl who learns her small Scottish town used to burn witches – and her empathy for these misunderstood forebears spurs her to petition the town for a memorial for them. Addie has an autistic teenage sister, Keedie, who is so wise and strong and wonderful. This book made me wish so hard I could have had a sister like Keedie, myself, to help me navigate the world. 


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The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

By Naoki Higashida, KA Yoshida, David Mitchell

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

Why this book?

Naoki was thirteen when he wrote this short, beautiful, poetic account of his life as a non-verbal autistic person. (He has since written another, equally brilliant volume about being a young man – Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.) What stays with me, from his writing, are his incredible powers of observation, his exquisite descriptions. I have never been nonverbal, but I experienced my childhood as if I was peering at an inexplicable “people-show” from behind an impenetrable pane of glass. These books are close to my heart, and really grew my empathy.


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