The Best Books about Autism by Autistic Authors

The latest research in 2023 from the CDC shows that one in 36 children is now diagnosed with autism. This is an increase from one in 44 children two years ago. This means that as an elementary teacher, it’s becoming even more important for you to understand autism.

Autistic kids have different ways of processing information, communicating, and learning. As an elementary teacher, many times it’s up to you to learn strategies that support these unique needs of the autistic community.

It’s so important for you to be aware of the wide spectrum of abilities and needs of autism. No two children with autism are the same. The strategies we use with one student, may not work for another. 

The best way to start an autism conversation and learning path, is to read good books by an autistic person. Autistic writers have been sharing their experiences with us for years and the list of books below will give you an inside look at their personal experiences. 

Let’s break autism down a bit first, though!

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people interact with the world and communicate. It is not a disease or illness, but rather a difference in the way the brain works. (learn more about neurodivergence here) Some key characteristics of autism are:

  1. Social Communication Challenges:
    • Difficulty understanding and using nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice.
    • Struggles with initiating or maintaining conversations.
    • Difficulty understanding and appropriately responding to social interactions and relationships.
  2. Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests:
    • Engaging in repetitive movements or actions, such as hand-flapping, rocking, or spinning objects.
    • Developing intense interests in specific topics or objects and becoming deeply focused on them.
    • Preference for routines and sameness, becoming distressed by changes in familiar environments or schedules.
  3. Sensory Sensitivities:
    • Heightened sensitivity or under-sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as lights, sounds, textures, or smells.
    • Reacting strongly to certain sensory inputs, leading to behaviors like covering ears, avoiding certain textures, or seeking specific sensory experiences.
  4. Difficulty with Flexibility and Adaptability:
    • Difficulty adapting to changes in routines or transitions between activities.
    • Struggles with understanding and predicting consequences of actions, leading to challenges in problem-solving and decision-making.
  5. Communication Differences:
    • Delayed or atypical language development, such as echolalia (repeating words or phrases) or difficulty understanding figurative language (idioms, sarcasm).
    • Nonverbal communication differences, such as limited eye contact or unusual body language.
  6. Strengths and Differences in Thinking:
    • Unique cognitive strengths, such as strong visual thinking or attention to detail.
    • Differences in learning style and information processing, often characterized by specific talents or areas of expertise.

Why Should Elementary Teachers Learn About Autism?

As mentioned above, the prevalence of autism is increasing and teachers need more tools for supporting these students in our classrooms. We want all students to feel valued and included in our classrooms, right? Well, understanding autism promotes inclusive education and positive classroom environments. 

Now, inclusion isn’t something you do. Rather, it’s a mindset and way of educating that highlights the need to be flexible and welcoming of all learners. 

Elementary teachers especially have a unique ability to help young students that have been diagnosed with autism because early intervention has been shown to be beneficial. This means that as students begin their school years, the way they are cared for and supported in the classroom can have tremendous positive affects long-term. 

Neurodiversity is a beautiful thing to celebrate in your class room and diving deep into autism, while raising autistic voices, is a great step to getting there.

The following autism books list will give you practical support for making positive updates to your special education or elementary education practice. While autism awareness is important as a general construct, diving into the minds and lives of actual autistic people sharing their own autistic identity is a far richer activity. 

A fun way to utilize this resource list would be to read them with your team during autism acceptance month, which is April. The following list are the perfect books to discuss with others and deepen your understanding of autism through autistic contributors. 

Recommended Books for Elementary Teachers

1. “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida

In this book, the author Naoki Higashida, a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, provides a behind the scenes glimpse into the mind of someone on the autism spectrum. Through a series of questions and answers, Naoki explains his experiences, thoughts, and behaviors, offering valuable perspectives on communication, sensory sensitivity, and the challenges of navigating social interactions in everyday life.

“The Reason I Jump” is an excellent book that sheds light on the inner world of autism and challenges common misconceptions about the condition. It offers insights into the autistic experience from a personal perspective.

Check it out here!

2. “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” by Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin a prominent advocate, scientist and autistic woman, shares her unique perspective on living with ASD in “Thinking in Pictures.” Grandin explains how her visual thinking style has shaped her experiences and insights into animal behavior.

She discusses sensory sensitivities, communication challenges, and the importance of understanding and accommodating different cognitive styles. “Thinking in Pictures” is a great book offers practical advice for educators and parents while celebrating the strengths of individuals with autism.

3. “Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s” by John Elder Robison

In “Look Me in the Eye,” John Elder Robison recounts his experiences growing up with Asperger’s syndrome. Robison shares personal anecdotes and reflections on his struggles with social interactions, sensory sensitivities, and misunderstandings.

Despite these challenges, Robison highlights his unique talents and accomplishments, offering hope and encouragement to others on the autism spectrum. His memoir provides valuable insights into the diversity of experiences within the autism community.

Get it now!

4. “Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism” by Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Fleischmann

“Carly’s Voice” is a touching and inspiring memoir co-written by Arthur Fleischmann and his daughter Carly, who is nonverbal and autistic. Carly communicates through typing and shares her journey of overcoming communication barriers and finding her voice.

The book chronicles Carly’s challenges, triumphs, and advocacy efforts to raise awareness about autism. Through Carly’s remarkable story, readers gain profound insights into the resilience and potential of individuals with autism.

5. “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” by Steve Silberman

Steve Silberman’s “NeuroTribes” is a comprehensive exploration of the history, cultural impact, and scientific understanding of autism. Drawing on extensive research and personal narratives, Silberman traces the evolution of autism diagnosis and advocacy movements.

The book celebrates neurodiversity and emphasizes the importance of embracing a different way of thinking. “NeuroTribes” challenges traditional views of autism and advocates for inclusive practices that support individuals on the autism spectrum.

Benefits of Reading These Books

Each of these books offers practical insights and strategies for supporting autistic students. The unique perspectives that these stories provide us are made more valuable because the authors give us their personal reflections from having lived with autism. Each author gives teachers knowledge to help us create inclusive learning environments.

Understanding the characteristics of autism and gaining insights from personal narratives like the books above, can significantly enhance your ability to support and empower autistic students in your elementary classroom. Each book offers a unique perspective and valuable lessons for fostering inclusivity and promoting neurodiversity awareness in classrooms.

Additional Resources

While the books above will absolutely provide you with a wonderful background for supporting the students in your classroom, there are so many other great resources for learning online. Again, looking for the kinds of stories that are written by autistic people is a great way to use personal story as a means of deeper understanding.

Autism Women’s Network (AWN)
Website: Autism Women’s Network
Founded by autistic women, AWN offers resources, advocacy, and community support specifically tailored to autistic women and girls. The website features articles, webinars, and forums addressing a range of topics related to autism and gender.

Neurodiversity Library
Website: Neurodiversity Library
Founded by John Marble, a neurodivergent individual, the Neurodiversity Library is an online repository of resources related to autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodivergent conditions. It includes articles, books, videos, and research papers to promote understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity.

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism (TPGA)
Website: Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism
Founded by autistic individuals and parents of autistic children, TPGA offers evidence-based information, personal narratives, and practical advice on autism. The website covers a wide range of topics including education, advocacy, healthcare, and community resources.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
Website: Autism Self Advocacy Network
ASAN is a nonprofit organization run by and for autistic individuals. The website provides advocacy resources, policy updates, and educational materials to empower autistic individuals and promote their rights and inclusion in society.

Autism Explained
Website: Autism Explained
Founded by autistic advocate Chloe Hayden, Autism Explained offers informative articles, videos, and courses designed to help parents, educators, and professionals better understand autism. The website focuses on practical strategies for supporting autistic individuals in various settings.

Exploring these websites founded by autistic individuals can provide valuable insights, resources, and perspectives on autism and neurodiversity. They offer a wealth of information for educators, parents, advocates, and anyone interested in learning more about autism from authentic and firsthand perspectives. 

Hopefully these books offer a kind of spark that encourages you to take the mental health, physical safety, and learning of uniques learners seriously in your practice.

By incorporating these insights and recommended readings into your practice as an elementary teacher, you can play a pivotal role in supporting the diverse needs of all students, including those with autism. 

Understanding and embracing neurodiversity fosters a more inclusive and equitable educational experience for every child in the classroom. These amazing books and websites help us to empower our own experiences with autistic individuals in a positive way. 

Similar Posts