12 books with insight into autism and neurodiversity, from picture books to YA

12 books with insight into autism and neurodiversity, from picture books to YA
Posted on November 26, 2021

“I’m wondering if there are any books aimed at an 8 year old (autistic child) with preferably with main character that is autistic?”

“I have recently started working with children and teens who have been diagnosed with ASD / ADHD / OCD / ODD / Intellectual disabilities – many with a combination of those. Can you recommend any books which can give me an insight into their world, or from one of those viewpoints etc?”

“Can someone recommend books on neurodiversity for the 8-12 age range please?”

This recent cross-section of questions from the Your Kid’s Next Read group demonstrates an interest across the wider community for books that help kids understand autism and neurodiversity – either in themselves, or in their peers, and across a wide range of ages.

So I asked Australian author Kay Kerr to create a list of books for young readers that would fit the bill.

Kay was writing the first draft of her debut novel Please Don’t Hug Me when she received her autism diagnosis, and she is passionate about autism and wider disability representation in YA fiction. Her second novel Social Queue is out now.

Here, Kay recommends 12 books, from picture books to young adult fiction, with some thoughts on why she chose them. Click the title to find out more about the book or to purchase from Booktopia*.


12 books with insights into autism and neurodiversity

some brains by nellie thomasSome Brains by Nelly Thomas

This picture book celebrates neurodiversity and is well-loved in my house. It has been a good starting point for teaching my own child about their autism diagnosis, and about how different people can experience the world in different ways. The illustrations are bright and fun.



the curiosities by Zana FraillonThe Curiosities by Zana Fraillon and Phil Lesnie

I have just picked up a copy of this and I adore it. It is a more abstract look at diversity and difference, with a magical story and stunning illustrations.



all the ways to be smart by davina bellAll The Ways To Be Smart by Davina Bell

This picture book isn’t specifically about autism and neurodiversity, but it is one that I know is loved by many autistic children and their families, including my own. The emphasis on there being different ways to be smart (and to succeed) is a message that is important for everyone to hear, and in particular for children who might be starting off their schooling journey.



the boy with the big, big feelingsThe Boy With Big, Big Feelings by Britney Win Lee and Jacob Souva

This picture book is for the kids with big feelings (and us adults with big feelings too). Autistic people can feel things very deeply, and unfortunately autistic traits like meltdowns are often framed as behavioural issues to be ‘fixed’, rather than something to be supported through.

This story touches on sensory overload, anxiety, special interests, emotional regulation, and masking. What I love about it is that all of these things are understood through the lens of this little boy with a big heart.


get a grip vivy cohenGet a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

This middle-grade novel is about an 11-year-old autistic girl called Vivy who wants to be a baseball pitcher. It is written as a series of letters, and it is a funny, sweet story about a determined kid making her dreams come true.

Author Sarah Kapit is autistic too, which always makes me feel safer when I pick up a book with autistic representation. I love that it is a sporty story with an autistic protagonist, because I haven’t read many of those.



Paws by kate fosterPaws by Kate Foster

I adore this middle-grade novel. I’ve got a few copies under the tree for some amazing kids this year. Kate Foster has written such a beautiful story about an autistic boy called Alex who wants to make a friend ahead of his transition to high school. He makes a plan that includes his dog, Kevin. It is a gentle story with a lot of heart.



A kind of sparkA Kind Of Spark by Elle McNicoll

My 11-year-old witch-loving, autistic self would have loved this book, and I very much do as an adult too. This middle-grade novel follows Addie, who campaigns for a memorial for the women killed in witch trials in her Scottish hometown. This is another autistic protagonist written by an autistic author, and I think this story about making your voice heard could be enjoyed by anyone.



diary of a young naturalistDiary Of A Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

This non-fiction book by Irish teenager Dara is for the nature lovers. It spans one year and is a stunning reflection on the wonder of the natural world. It is gentle, lyrical, and profound.

Dara writes so beautifully about his own experiences as an autistic teenager, and how much being immersed in nature helps him.



peta lyrePeta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley

This beloved CBCA-shortlisted YA novel features neurodivergent protagonist (ASD, ADHD, SPD) Peta who has successfully learnt all the rules for ‘normal’. But then a new girl arrives at school and Peta must figure out which ones to follow, and which ones to break. It has helped me to think critically about therapies, and to consider the difference between those that support and those that train ND kids to act like neurotypical ones.



Queens of GeekQueens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Contemporary YA Queens of Geek follows three friends who travel from Australia to the US to attend SupaCon, a Comic Con-style convention for all things geeky and amazing. One of the main characters is autistic, as is author Jen Wilde. It is sweet, funny, awkward and affirming–a forever favourite of mine and great for anyone who loves fandom.



books by Kay KerrPlease Don’t Hug Me & Social Queue

I’m going to be cheeky and end this list with my two contemporary YA novels.

Please Don’t Hug Me is a raw, funny-serious coming-of-age novel about an autistic girl about to finish high school, and navigating all of the change that comes with that.

Social Queue is about an autistic young woman who has just started university and is keen to dip her toes into the dating world.


Kay Kerr Find out more about Kay Kerr and her books at kaykerr.com





Allison Tait podcastAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

 If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!

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