April is Autism Acceptance Month, and we are celebrating neurodiversity at Caseyville Library. Different ways of moving through the world offers a spectrum of experiences that deeply enrich our cultures, communities, and families. Everyone could benefit from learning and understanding the experiences of people with different abilities and different ways of thinking.
Below are some picture books that can help any kid, neurotypical and neurodiverse, understand themselves and their fellow humans.
Julie’s brother Ian has autism and Julie does not always understand the way he experiences the world. One day, Julie and her sister, Tara decide to go to the park, but Ian wants to go as well. Sometimes Ian draws attention to himself because of the activities he seeks that passersby may not understand. This embarrasses Julie, and she wishes he would enjoy the walk to the park like she does. But a scary experience causes Julie to change her mind and listen to the way Ian wants to enjoy his walk instead of worrying about her own impatience or other people’s opinions.
This book is illustrated in watercolor by Karen Ritz, and the realistic pictures help bring the story to life. These images evoke a sense of calm and appreciation for our very human emotions. You and your child will also enjoy the rich sensory descriptions throughout the book.
How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, Illustrated by Giselle Potter
Temple Grandin loved making plans and building and making paper kites, lean-tos, and obstacle courses for her dog. But Temple did not like hugs because they felt like being surrounded by a scratchy sock. This story explores her understanding that hugs brought comfort to other kids so she would seek out experiences that would give her that same feeling. When she visits her aunt’s ranch over a summer break, she has an extraordinary idea to make a hug machine.
Following Temple on her journey for comfort can start conversations on what kind of sensory experiences kids like and dislike. It can also help them come up with creative ideas like Temple’s hug machine that could help them seek out their own comfort and calm.
Henry wants to make a friend, but not just anyone. His friend could not be the class pet fish or his teacher, but some kids are too loud or do not want to do the same activities as Henry. Still, Henry believes that maybe one of the kids in his class could be a friend. In the afternoon during his free time, Henry stares at the fish bowl, and a girl joins him. Could she be the friend he is looking for? A Friend for Henry can be a great story to read to any kids going to school for the first time, changing to a new school, or who are struggling to make friends. It also can help kids understand that not everyone makes friends the same way, and it’s okay that they take their time to find the right people. Henry’s story is inspired by the author’s own children’s experiences finding friends, including one who is on the autism spectrum.
All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism by Shaina Rudolph & Danielle Royer, Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Zane had a hard day at school and is afraid his classmates judge him for not participating in the way they all seem to intuitively engage with each other. Sometimes this makes Zane feel left out and afraid that his autism is the only thing anyone can see. This story is about accepting ourselves as we are as a whole because every part of ourselves makes up who we are, and without these parts, we wouldn’t be us. Not only is this a good starting story to talk about neurodiversity, but it can also get kids talking about how their differences make them stronger.
Some people think of autism as a disability, but not everyone sees it like that. In many ways, being on the autism spectrum grants people a different way of thinking. Senses can be heightened and so can abilities! As Zak explains, he thinks of himself as uniquely wired. There is so much that comes easily to him and makes him an intelligent, passionate, and interesting person, but like everyone, there are other parts of life that Zak needs more help with. And that’s okay! In many ways, Zac teaches his family and friends new ways to experience life. Books like Uniquely Wired help kids understand that people may act and interact differently from them, but everyone has different strengths, and these differences should be celebrated.
We hope you enjoy these picture books for Autism Acceptance Month! As always, if you would like more to read, visit our library catalog. With your library card, you have access to 500+ libraries in Illinois!
Caseyville Library also offers Sensory Backpacks available for checkout, and we also keep one for our patrons to use in the library. Collection Development Librarian, Jackie explains what's all inside these backpacks in this Video below!