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Tech & Media

5 Surprising Chapter Books That Feature Disabilities And Neurodiverse Characters

Aug 8, 2019

Representation matters.

Every person should feel represented in literature and media, in some way.

The same goes for disabilities.

I feel it's important for children to see themselves represented. It helps them feel less alone and less misunderstood. And it gives them someone to relate to. It gives them that sense of 'wow, they get what I'm going through.'

Unfortunately, it's tough to find books that feature disabled and/or neurodiverse characters in the first place. And it's even more rare to find good books on those topics. Books that are positive, authentic and real.

I'm confident that the books below will be just the right books to introduce your child to neurodiversity and disabilities. They will be a great starting point to help your child find someone they can understand and relate to.

Here are five books for elementary-aged kids that feature disabilities and neurodiverse characters.

A Boy Called Bat (Elana K. Arnold)

Book cover: A Boy Called Bat By Elana K. Arnold

This book is about an autistic boy named Bat who loves animals. It is a great read for early elementary-aged kids. I personally loved seeing Bat's insights into how he interpreted the world around him.

There are also two other books in this series: Bat and the Waiting Game and Bat and the End of Everything. I haven't personally read the third book yet, but the second one was even better than the first, in my opinion. Ages 6 to 10.

El Deafo (Cece Bell)

Book cover: El Deafo by Cece Bell

The author shares her childhood experience of losing her hearing and having to wear a hearing aid in this colourful graphic novel. Cece, a young bunny with a hearing impairment, develops her superhero persona, El Deafo, when she gets her Phonic Ear hearing aid.

This story is heartwarming, positive and absolutely wonderful. The illustrations are adorable and fun, too. El Deafo gives the reader incredible insight into what it's like to grow up with a disability. Ages 8 to 12.

Here's Another Booklist From Dyan: 5 Picture Books That Represent Kids On The Autism Spectrum

Fish in a Tree (Lynda Mullaly Hunt)

Book cover: Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally, the main character in Fish in a Tree has dyslexia and has struggled to learn to read because of it. In fact, I think the book does a great job of showcasing what challenges a dyslexic reader faces in school. It also highlights the power of a good teacher and how a good teacher can make a huge difference. Overall, a really great book. Ages 10 and up.

Out of My Mind (Sharon M. Draper)

Book cover: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

This book features 11-year-old Melody who is non-verbal, physically disabled and has cerebral palsy. She is also incredibly bright, but no one really believes she is until she gets an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. A great reminder to always presume competence!

This book does a good job at highlighting the various everyday challenges that disabled people face. However, I found myself frustrated multiple times throughout the book because of how she was treated, which can be very eye-opening for those new to the world of disabilities. Ages 10 and up.

The State of Grace (Rachael Lucas)

Book cover: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Written by a woman with autism, The State of Grace is about an autistic teenager named Grace. The portrayal of autism in this book seems real and authentic and you'll find Grace's character easy to relate to. I'm sure you'll quickly fall in love with her character like I did.

The positivity in which autism is portrayed in this book is incredibly refreshing.

Also, one of the supporting characters has ADHD and he openly talks about taking medication for it. Ages 13 to 18.

Article Author Dyan Robson
Dyan Robson

Read more from Dyan here.

Married to her high school sweetheart, Dyan is mom to two boys, J and K, who also teaches piano out of her home. On her blog And Next Comes L, Dyan shares her story of raising a child with hyperlexia, hypernumeracy and autism, amongst a variety of sensory activities for kids. You can find out more about their story on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.


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