autism awareness

14 books that can help kids understand and support peers with disabilities

Photos courtesy of Christina Abernethy 

April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month and as a parent of an autistic child, I’m always looking for ways to help educate our community. So my family has a tradition: Every year during the month of April, my son and I do a presentation for his classmates. We talk about autism, how to be a kind friend to our peers with disabilities and ways we can make sure everyone feels included.

My son is now almost 13 and in seventh grade. We’ve been speaking to his peers every year since he was in kindergarten. We started with his class, then his entire grade and each year we’ve added more grades. This year we’ll speak to kindergarten through third grade and all the middle schoolers in our district.

For younger students in K-5, I read two stories that focus on autism, inclusion and being kind. Then we talk about what autism is, the things that can be difficult for autistic individuals and the supports they receive to help build their skills.

We also take time to highlight the many ways that people with disabilities are capable of doing amazing things and how we can include them. Our son is part of the conversation and uses his speech device to communicate with his peers to share his insight. He loves to tell them jokes throughout our presentation to get them laughing and having fun!

autism awareness_photo courtesy of Christina Abernethy
Christina and her son have been sharing their knowledge with students since he was in kindergarten.

At the end of our presentation, we leave time for questions. Students can ask me a question as the mom or ask my son questions. If his twin brother is with us, they can get his sibling perspective. I’m always amazed at the questions we’re asked every year and the thought that goes into each one.

Now that our son is in middle school, we no longer read stories to his peers. Instead, we have more time for conversation, educating and answering question. We’re incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to go into schools and help educate about autism and inclusion. Kids are so curious and always want to learn more. Giving them the opportunity to learn and interact with an autistic student who communicates differently is such a memorable experience.

My hope is that the students go home and talk about what they learned, how our son communicated with them and the different ways they can be supportive and kind to those with disabilities. We create this safe space with students during our presentation and I hope that encourages families to continue those conversations in their homes.

There are several books that we’ve read over the years that I would recommend for families to have in their home. They’d also be great additions to the school libraries!

These particular books are great for children up to fifth grade:

  • “Artie is Awesome” by Deidra Darst is one of my favorites and by far our son’s favorite! Artie is autistic and uses a speech device like our son, so I think that’s why it’s his favorite.
  • “Things That Rhyme with Autism” by Taylor Hagemeyer
  • “The Abilities in Me Autism Book” by Gemma Keir
  • “Alice An Autistic Aardvark” by Jo North
  • “My Brother Charlie,” written by Holly Robinson Peete.

These books are not autism-specific, but they would be great additions to your list:

  • “The Boy Who Couldn’t Speak, Yet” by Jordan Christian LeVan is about apraxia of speech, which is a speech disorder that our son has. It impacts the brain’s ability to sequence the movements of the mouth to produce verbal words which makes it difficult to speak or speak clearly. The author has apraxia of speech and shares his experience through the story.
  • “You Are Enough: A Book About Inclusion” is written by Margaret O’Hair and inspired by Sophia Sanchez. This book does a great job talking about inclusion and embracing differences.
  • “The Abilities In Me: Superstar Siblings Edition” is written by Gemma Keir. She highlights the siblings to disabled children and the amazing strength, courage and kindness they all have.

I recently saw a post on Instagram from @maistorybooklibrary that shared a list of books for middle school students or older. Some of these include:

  • “The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family”
  • “The Someday Birds”
  • “Can You See Me?”
  • “We Could Be Heroes”
  • “Planet Earth is Blue”
  • ‘Show Us Who You Are”

autism awareness_photo courtesy of christina abernethyIf you’re looking for a book as a parent, caregiver, teacher, social worker or any adult looking for a great resource, I highly recommend reading the book “Forever Boy,” written by Kate Swenson.

It is the best book I’ve read that gives an honest, raw look into the autism world through a parent’s perspective.

Swenson shares their family’s story with her autistic son Cooper, his siblings and their journey over the past ten years. She dives into the good, the bad and everything in between. It’s an extremely well written book that I believe everyone should read to have a better understanding of what our lives are like and the extraordinary people we are raising.

As we are approaching the end of Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of support and love that we’ve received from our community. Autism is a part of our lives every day, but it’s so important to help spread awareness and educate those who are not familiar with it.

Teaching kids at a young age about disabilities and how we embrace our unique differences will leave a lifelong understanding of kindness and compassion. They’ll be well educated and feel confident on how to support their peers who are different from them.

Every student deserves to feel a sense of belonging and I believe we can accomplish that by continuing to have these conversations and providing a space for children to learn and ask questions.

I hope this encourages you to read a new book, have more conversations about autism and disabilities with your children or talk your district about having someone speak to their students. Not just in the month of April, but I hope we keep this going throughout the entire year!


Teachers and school administrators, if you’d like to invite Christina to speak with students at your school, reach out to her through Love Hope & Autism on Facebook or Instagram or via e-mail at