With Social Skills and Inclusion at the forefront of my teaching practice, I am always looking for new ways to introduce ASD concepts to the neurotypical peers of my students. In my experience, young children are the best receivers of this sensitive information, and I usually begin sharing knowledge with students in Kindergarten. These learners typically take information about Autism at face value, and simply accept differences as they come. They are not afraid to ask difficult questions and don't fear the social consequences that might come with "putting Autism on the table."
1. My Brother Charlie by Denene Millner, Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Pete
"Charlie has autism. His brain works in a special way. It's harder for him to make friends. Or show his true feelings. Or stay safe."
Actress Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter Ryan collaborate on a picture book for young children from the perspective of a twin sibling. Ryan explains her brother's likes and interests, which include swimming, running fast and "sometimes being quiet." She points out the things he is good at, like naming all of the American presidents and knowing everything about airplanes.
Holly founded the HOLLYROD foundation which provides compassionate care for families living with Autism.
2. Since We're Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Celeste Shally
From the perspective of a best friend, "Since We're Friends" is a picture book for young children that explores the social obstacles of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Matt isn't sure how to navigate the social norms in the public pool and sometimes presents behaviours that are unpleasant to others. However, his friend sticks by his side and helps him to make better choices while accepting his needs as things that make their friendship stronger.
3. In My Mind: The World Through the Eyes of Autism
by Adonya Wong
"In my mind, I see many colours, bright like a rainbow, shooting about like comets in a night sky."
"In My Mind" explores specific characteristics of ASD such as self-talk and stimming and allows you to get inside the mind of a boy with Autism. While what you see is a "child staring into nothing," this book teaches children that there are many things going on in the mind of someone else, and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "don't judge a book by it's cover."
4. Autism Is...?
This book is great for the young learners, and I love reading to Kindergarten aged students. It does not go into a lot of detail about ASD, but it explains Autism as the brain working differently and describes some very general characteristics such as spinning and differences in communication. The illustrations in this book are bright and colourful, making it an engaging read for kids. I like the fact that it uses broad descriptions that lead the way for questions and conversation after reading.
5. Can I Tell You about Asperger's Syndrome? by Jude Welton
"...having AS means I have difficulties with some things that most people don't have trouble with. My main difficulties are with what some people call 'social sense' - understanding and getting along with other people easily."
For middle school-aged children, "Can I Tell You About Asperger's Syndrome" is a great resource for teaching children to understand the differences between themselves and their peers. For students who are diagnosed with Asperger's, the book can be used as a communication tool for their families and friends.
What are your favourite books to teach about Autism?