Autism is a range of conditions characterized by difficulty with social skills, speech, non verbal communication, and repetitive behavior. While it’s important to speak with a physician about any questions or find a neurodiverse-affirming therapist, there are great books about Autism that function as supplemental education.
Below, you’ll find a list of books that explain some of the many aspects of Autism and neurodiversity, first-person memoirs or narratives, and books for kids and adolescents with Autism.
Best Books for Explaining Autism
Let’s start with the best books for explaining autism—both what it is and what it isn’t. The following titles tend to keep a broad perspective while occasionally delving into more detailed subtopics.
1. Uniquely Human (A Different Way of Seeing Autism)
Many consider Uniquely Human to be a groundbreaking book on the topic of autism. When it ventures into the value of therapy, it doesn’t imply that the goal is to “fix” something, but rather, to seek an understanding. Author Barry M. Prizant covers symptoms and behaviors such as autistic burnout, sensory challenges, repetitive patterns, and trouble communicating. Reviewers call it a must-read for anyone who desires a “deeper understanding, through the lens of a seasoned and mindful professional in the field of autism.”
2. Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
Author Ellen Notbohm writes with humor and compassion as the parent of multiple children with autism and ADHD. Her audience is the caregivers — parents, teachers, social workers, therapists, and physicians — and her goal is to provide a guide to caring for kids with autism. She also opens up a larger discussion about social processing skills, communication issues, and the definition of a meaningful, self-sufficient, productive life.
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew is a goldmine of insight, and readers say it reminds them that we should “learn more than we teach” and “listen more than we talk.”
3. Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
Wired reporter and author Steve Silberman uses this book to try and answer one question: what is autism? He finds that the answer is quite complicated and multifaceted. In addition to covering some of the basics, he digs into the history of autism in this country, and explores why the number of diagnoses has skyrocketed in the last decade. Then he goes on to cover the concept of neurodiversity — not as an error of nature but as a natural variation in the human genome.
4. An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn
An Early Start for Your Child with Autism simplifies and explains the kind of cutting edge research parents may require to guide their children through early age development. Authors and Drs. Sally Rogers, Geraldine Dawson, and Laurie Vismara break things down into a series of fun activities and learning experiences targeted at promoting play, language development, and social engagement. This book was deemed so effective that it was named the American Journal of Nursing’s “Book of the Year.”
5. The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome
Author Tony Attwood has provided the definitive handbook and guide for anyone affected by Asperger’s syndrome. Drawing on research, case studies, and personal accounts, this book is simultaneously authoritative and accessible. It examines topics like potential indications of the syndrome, diagnosis, language development, social interaction, bullying, and ongoing mental health. It also delves into sensory sensitivities, coordination skills, and career development.
6. Seven Keys to Unlock Autism: Making Miracles in the Classroom
Seven Keys to Unlock Autism is a guide to nurturing and supporting kids with autism. Whether you’re a parent, sibling, caregiver, or educator, authors Diane Issacs and Elaine Hall want to convey seven “keys” or steps for you to connect with your child.
As such, it addresses the topic of autism like a puzzle, giving readers the tools they need to piece symptoms and behaviors together, making the experience as rewarding and as successful as possible. In 2008, this book was documented in “Autism: The Musical,” an award-winning documentary on HBO.
7. Connecting With the Autism Spectrum: How to Talk, How to Listen, And Why You Shouldn’t Call it High-Functioning
Connecting with the Autism Spectrum helps neurodiverse individuals find common ground with neurotypical individuals. It’s about helping both parties make every interaction transparent, meaningful, and rewarding. Author, artist, and autism advocate Casey Vormer provides all readers with need-to-know information on active listening, positive encouragement, and how to avoid misunderstandings.
Not only that, he focuses on how to recognize our own biases and correct them, covering topics like why the commonly used term “high functioning autism” is a misnomer.
8. In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
In a Different Key: The Story of Autism was a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist. It offers a narrative history of autism including stories of civil rights, advocacy, and social change. Following the odyssey of this often misunderstood condition, the book tells many stories — both up-close and from an overhead view. Authors John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t shy away from the dark history, hoping that, in doing so, readers won’t be doomed to repeat it.
9. Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity
For some autistic people, “masking” is a common coping mechanism. It refers to when they hide their identifiable autistic traits as a way to blend into societal norms. Unmasking Autism covers some of the common examples of masking, including suppressing stims, hiding communication challenges, and making one’s personality “smaller” to avoid alienation or being seen as different. Author Dr. Devon Price describes his own experience with masking his autism, blending his story with scientific research, history, and other personal profiles.
10. The Autistic Brain: Exploring the Strength of a Different Kind of Mind
In this book from author Temple Grandin, she shares her experience as an autistic person, as well as new research and studies about the autistic brain. She focuses on long-ignored issues, like the need to treat autism on a symptom-by-symptom basis instead of under an umbrella diagnosis. Primarily, The Autistic Brain argues that raising and educating kids on the autism spectrum should focus less on adjusting to perceived “weaknesses,” and more on bolstering and fostering unique strengths.
11. On the Spectrum: Autism, Faith, and the Gifts of Neurodiversity
According to the CDC, one in 54 kids has autism, meaning most of us know someone or are someone on the autism spectrum. Although autism is common, there are many misconceptions about it. On the Spectrum by Daniel Bowman Jr. spends time debunking myths about autism. Bowman received his autism diagnosis after a crisis, and in this book, he delves into his neurodiversity, Christian faith, and how to persevere through curveballs, heartbreak, and tragedy.
12. The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain
Author and psychologist Thomas Armstrong helps give his readers a fresh understanding of what it means to be neurodivergent. In the last 50 years, the American Psychiatric Association has added many diagnosis categories, meaning we’re expanding our definition of what it means to be neurotypical. The Power of Neurodiversity questions descriptions of autism as a “disability,” digging into the evolutionary advantages and special skills that often come with being autistic or neurodivergent. This is a great book for parents, caregivers, and teachers of neurodivergent kids.
13. Autism and Spirituality: Psyche, Self and Spirit in People on the Autism Spectrum
Author Olga Bogdashina believes and argues that spirituality can play a major role in the lives of people with autism. She supports her argument with research from many fields, including psychology, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, neuroscience, and religion. Autism and Spirituality gives a voice to many people with autism, specifically non-verbal people, presenting a framework to understand spiritual development and “giftedness” within the autistic community.
Best First-Person Narratives on Autism
The best information usually comes first-hand. That’s why the following books tell first-person narratives about life with autism. Theory and research only gets us so far, but the real truth is through the eyes of the individual.
14. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
The Reason I Jump is a truly unique memoir that puts readers inside the complex and beautiful mind of an autistic thirteen-year-old boy. It does a wonderful job illustrating how someone with autism perceives, feels, and responds to the world around them.
Author Naoki Higashida answers some of those awkward questions people might have about the habits or mannerisms of an autistic individual. When asked, “What’s the reason you jump?” he answers, “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”
15. Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism
Author Temple Grandin writes as both a scientist and an autistic person. In Thinking in Pictures, she introduces her own model of analysis based on thought patterns, comparing her mind with the minds of others who, as she puts it, “think in words.” In addition to giving her first-hand account of this process, and her life in general, she addresses developments in the study of autism, genetic research, and diagnostic criteria.
16. Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s
Readers call this memoir by John Elder Robison “sweet,” “funny,” “sad,” and “true.” Look Me in the Eye is a heartfelt depiction of life with Asperger’s syndrome. Robison wasn’t diagnosed until later in life, and with that knowledge, he was able to look back with a new level of understanding. Now, he shares his hard-earned wisdom with readers, hoping to help them in their own journey with Aspergers, or in their effort to understand someone else.
17. Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love From His Extraordinary Son
In this intimate memoir Following Ezra, readers learn about a father’s experience in raising his autistic son, Ezra. When Ezra was three, his doctor told author and father Tom Fields-Meyer to mourn the son he would never have. That moment inspired Fields-Meyer to do the opposite and celebrate his child exactly as he was.
The book commends and is curious about the complex mind, following father and son on their journey from diagnosis up through adolescence. It’s about acceptance, appreciation, understanding, love, and letting go of your own ego.
18. But You Don’t Look Autistic At All
One reviewer speaks highly of But You Don’t Look Autistic at All, saying, “Helpful as a parent of an autistic child. Loved the humor. Bianca is inspiring and breaks stereotypes.” Author Bianca Toeps describes her experience with autism, using great detail and exploring scientific theories (some of which she debunks). She offers useful tips for autistic people and non-autistic people alike, covering topics like what to do if someone prefers not to look you in the eye, why email communication is better, and why not to say “But you don’t look autistic at all,” as if it’s some kind of compliment.
Best Books on Autism for Kids, Tweens, & Teens
Autism is a complex subject for anyone to understand, let alone children and young adults. It’s extremely multifaceted; however, these books break it down in a way that’s easy to digest while still being open to subjectivity based on experience
19. The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome
With the knowledge that being a teenager is hard for absolutely everyone, The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules functions as a guide to the sometimes unspoken rules of social interaction. Written primarily for tweens and teens on the autism spectrum, it veers away patronization and provides relatable insight and practice in the form of a comic strip. Author Jennifer Cook O’Toole covers all the basics including the difference between “tattling” and “telling,” and other practical distinctions.
20. My Brother Charlie
Author and actress Holly Robinson Peete wrote My Brother Charlie based on her son who has autism. Using real-life inspiration, she writes about a boy who struggles to make friends and express his feelings, but who excels at so many other things like naming American presidents, talking about airplanes, and playing piano. It’s both celebratory of his uniqueness and informative for kids and families going through the same things.
21. All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism
In this children’s book by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer, Zane the zebra has autism, and he worries that his differences make him stand out in a bad way. Through his mother, he learns about the many things that make him and the other kids special, including but not nearly limited to his autism. Ultimately, it’s a book to teach children to embrace who they are but love others for their differences.
For Further Reading
- Learn more about the signs of autism in girls and young women
- Check out our article on Sensory Overload
- Dive into the topic of Emotion Dysregulation