So, last week was Neurodiversity Celebration Week. My kids were home sick all week, and I was struggling just to get work done so I didn't post when I had intended to. The thing is, we celebrate specific days, weeks, and months to draw attention to people, groups, events, and ideas, to come together as communities, to spread awareness, and to honor something shared by some and perhaps marginalized or unfamiliar to others.
But we can do that any and every day, week, or month, too. So, I might be late, but I have some neurodiverse books to share because we love them, and they deserve to be on bookshelves and read in homes, classrooms, and libraries.
To start, neurodiversity refers to neurological differences among people, or different ways of thinking, processing information, communicating, and behaving. Neurological refers to the structures and functions of the body's nervous system, which includes the brain. Specific neurological differences include autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Down syndrome (Ds), dyscalculia (difficulty performing math calculation), dysgraphia (difficulty writing) and dyslexia (difficulty reading), dyspraxia (difficulty with coordination), sensory processing differences, social anxiety, among other developmental and mental health conditions.
This video explains a little about how the brain works ...
This video builds on the previous one and introduces some ways that brains work differently ...
Neurodiversity in Literature
Why does neurodiversity matter in literature? We live in a splendidly diverse world. Not only do our ecosystems rely on diversity to thrive but so, too, do our human societies. However, that means being aware of and celebrating our differences as well as our similarities. This begins with making sure that a) all children and people can see themselves in literature and other media and b) all children and people can see others in authentic ways in the same.
Expanding diversity in representation (across age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, economic status, culture, religion, skin color and race, sexual orientation, types of families, types of homes, migratory status, cognitive and physical differences, and so much more) builds healthier individuals and communities. It builds confidence, empathy, and connection. Literature is especially important because books, stories, poems, and more enable us to step outside our own lives and explore other lived experiences and learn about and look on events through other perspectives.
Here are some picture books that reflect neurodiverse themes and/or have neurodiverse characters.
Neurodiverse Book Suggestions
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley and How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine by Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, Giselle Potter
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Rafael López and Sonia Sotomayor
Unstoppable Me by Susan Verde and Andrew Joyner
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song
Benji, the Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla and Ken Min
Autism spectrum, sibling relationship
Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism by Jen Malia and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Autism spectrum, sensory processing
Brilliant Bea by Shaina Rudolph, Mary Vukadinovich, and Fiona Lee
A Walk in the Words by Hudson Talbott
Abdul's Story by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Tiffany Rose
Up and Adam by Debbie Zapata and Yong Ling Kang
Hide and Shh! A Not-So-Sneaky Sister Story About Inclusion by Christina Dendy and Nathalia Takeyama
Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster by Manka Kasha
The Whatifs by Emily Kilgore and Zoe Persico
Don't Hug Doug by Carrie Finison and Daniel Wiseman
Sensory processing, consent
Also, I haven't managed to get my hands on this one yet, but I just found this book: Some Brains: A book celebrating neurodiversity by Nelly Thomas and Cat MacInnes, which released in Australia in 2019.
There are so many awesome middle grade and chapter book books now. If you're looking for more neurodiverse titles, I have a whole list of picture books, chapter books, and middle grade on Bookshop.org. Purchasing from Bookshop also supports local, small, and independent booksellers. Also, check out the additional lists below for more great neurodiverse reads!
Some more lists: