I am a firm believer in the potential of books—books bring families and friends together, provide support, knowledge, and solidarity. In no particular order, below is a list of books for teachers, advocates, children of all ages, and families with disabilities. Some of these narratives encourage play, foster introspection, inspire growth, or provide tools.
1. Thinking in Pictures, Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin shares her inspiring story of overcoming stigma and adversity to achieve her goals. Her story solidifies the fact that though every mind thinks and perceives differently, every mind is no less human. Temple Grandin is a celebrated animal scientist, and was diagnosed with autism in her childhood. She shares how her unique way of understanding the world allows her to achieve a successful career and a meaningful life. Her story is also a motion picture.
2. 101 Games and Activities for Children with Autism, Asperger’s and Sensory Processing Disorders, Tara Delaney
All children learn through play. Through special games and activities, children with disability will improve their motor, language, and social skills. Tara Delaney is pediatric occupational therapists, who shows parents and teachers how to help their children engage their bodies and minds through interactive games. Games will not only provide fun learning, but important bonding time for families and support groups. To be accompanied by 101 Games & Activities for Youth with Autism, by Suzanne Moore Gray.
3. The Reason I Jump: the inner voice of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, Naoki Higashida
A New York Times bestseller, Naoki Higashida shares his journey with autism. Higashida gives insight into the ways autistic children think, feel, understand, and respond to their surroundings. Higashida’s honest and heartfelt story gives life to the autistic mind, allowing teachers, parents, and supporters to better understand the perspective of their child. Readers will be left humbled by a child who sees beauty and gratitude in a world which claims to be against him.
4. Autism Every Day: Over 150 Strategies Lives and Learned by a Professional Autism Consultant with 3 Sons on the Spectrum, Alyson Beytien
Mother and professional consultant Alyson Beytien combines personal narratives with practical strategies to help families overcome the challenges of children with disabilities. Beytien provides over 150 applicable techniques for every-day life, from eating and diet to schooling and social anxieties. Overall, Beytien encourages parents, teachers and supporters to celebrate the joys and challenges that children with disabilities bring to each day.
5. The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
As an American classic, The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story, published in 1892, and is considered groundbreaking as feminist and ableist literature. The story follows a women, diagnosed with ‘hysterics’ and forbidden to work. The main character’s unstimulating course of treatment leads to the deterioration of her mental health. The story confronts stigma accompanying mental health, confinement and condemnation of those deemed less worth in our society, and the self-awareness of the main character’s own condition.
6. Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability, Pat ThomasIn a heartwarming picture book, Pat Thomas confronts ableism in encouraging and simple ways.
Children can begin to understand ideas surrounding ability and disability. Children will learn that such questions of ability do not define ones’ happiness or value. The A First Look At… series by Pat Thomas confront complicated and emotional issues in ways that are encouraging and simple for children to understand.
7. Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities, David Flink
David Flink is the leader of Eye to Eye, a nation-wide mentoring program for children and students with learning disabilities. In his book, he provides a robust guide that equips parents, teachers, and supporters to help understand and provide for children with learning disabilities. Flink gives readers a deep understanding of the learning process of children with disabilities. His book outlines specific strategies and tools to empower and enable children with learning disabilities.
8. Disability and Passing: Blurring the Lines of Identity, Jeffrey A. Brune and Daniel J. WilsonDisability and Passing is an anthology for the academic study of disability, providing a rigorous and comprehensive overview of ableism, mental illness, and identity. The anthology explores concepts of disability, race, gender, and sexuality as they relate to identity, and social stigma. Overall, the editors demonstrate that the distinctions between ability and disability are blurred; arguing that personal identity as it relates to ability and disability is socially and historically constructed.
9. My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi PicoultThe heart wrenching narrative follows a young girl who sues her parents when expected to donate organs to her sister dying of cancer. The main character confronts the limit of sibling love and selflessness, and questions her identity as it relates to her sick sister. Picoult addresses the morality of how much parents should give for their child. After addressing topics of ability, disability, identity, and illness, comes to a crashing close.