Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to intellectual disabilities. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about intellectual disabilities.
Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
We hope this list of kids books about intellectual disabilities can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!
Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond. When Chicken has a “meltdown”, Cat’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s always knows what he needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat is the glue holding her family together. When a summer trip doesn’t go as planned, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they’ve never met. With their help, Cat can be a kid again for the first time in years, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes. Perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, this special novel features an unforgettable voice and is brimming with heart.
Nothing you have ever read can prepare you for Stephen King’s boldest exercise in terror, a multi-part serial novel that begins on Death Row and burrows inward to the most horrific secrets of the heart. Brace yourself as the most exciting story imaginable concludes with a rush of wonder and amazement.
Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, the powerful, classic story about a man who receives an operation that turns him into a genius…and introduces him to heartache. Charlie Gordon is about to embark upon an unprecedented journey. Born with an unusually low IQ, he has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that researchers hope will increase his intelligence-a procedure that has already been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon. As the treatment takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment appears to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon suddenly deteriorates. Will the same happen to Charlie?
A girl tries to hide her quirks at a new school in this middle-grade novel from debut author Ellie Terry. Astronomy-loving Calliope June has Tourette syndrome, so she sometimes makes faces or noises that she doesn’t mean to make. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But it isn’t long before the kids at her new school realize she’s different. Only Calliope’s neighbor, who is also the popular student body president, sees her as she truly is–an interesting person and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public? As Calliope navigates school, she must also face her mother’s new relationship and the fact that they might be moving–again–just as she starts to make friends and finally accept her differences. Partially in verse and partially in prose with two intertwined points of view, Ellie Terry’s affecting debut will speak to a wide audience about being true to oneself.Praise for Forget Me Not “Terry’s debut novel thoughtfully traces the fragile emotions of two seventh graders: Calliope, a girl painfully self-conscious about having Tourette syndrome, and Jinsong, a popular boy she meets in her new town. Terry, who has Tourette syndrome herself, offers enormous insight into an often-misunderstood condition, writing in verse for Calliope’s chapters and prose for Jinsong’s. Her poetic explorations of Calliope’s anxiety and Jinsong’s moral struggles are honest and moving.” –Publishers Weekly”Terry, who herself lives with Tourette’s syndrome, movingly draws from her own experience as she describes Callie’s experiences and behaviors. The narrative alternates between Callie’s and Jin’s perspectives, with Callie’s chapters in affecting, varied poems and Jin’s in plain prose and e-mails. This heartfelt, multivoice story with a meaningful message about friendship and acceptance is perfect for kids who appreciate realistic, character driven stories, such as Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger (2015).” –Booklist”Written in a patchwork of prose poetry and free verse, Terry’s narrative deftly represents the reality of TS in its fullness. It works to deconstruct common misconceptions, such as that those who have TS have a propensity to swear, and sheds light on the raw confusion and the frightening nature of a physical experience that is utterly unpredictable . . . This exploration of Calli’s neurological disorder and her struggle to find her place will stay in the hearts and minds of readers for a long time….” –School Library Journal”Terry’s debut novel is a rare treat–a beautiful story of middle grade friendship, crushes, accepting differences, and how to deal with the school bullies. Terry’s use of figurative language and symbolism is magical. It will offer lessons in tolerance, acceptance, and kindness toward those different than themselves.” –School Library Connection
While the powerlessness of the laboring class is a recurring theme in Steinbeck’s work of the late 1930s, he narrowed his focus when composing “Of Mice and Men” (1937), creating an intimate portrait of two men facing a world marked by petty tyranny, misunderstanding, jealousy, and callousness. But though the scope is narrow, the theme is universal; a friendship and a shared dream that makes an individual’s existence meaningful.
The Sound and the Fury - Backgrounds begins with the appendix Faulkner wrote in 1945 and sometimes referred to as another telling of The Sound and the Fury and includes a selection of Faulkner’s letters, excerpts from two Faulkner interviews, a memoir by Faulknerís friend Ben Wasson, and both versions of Faulkner’s 1933 introduction to the novel. Cultural and Historical Contexts presents four different perspectives on the place of the American South in history. Taken together, these works–by C. Vann Woodward, Richard H. King, Carolyn Porter, and Robert Penn Warren–provide the reader with valuable contexts for understanding the novel. Criticism includes seventeen essays on The Sound and the Fury that collectively trace changes in the way we have viewed this novel over the last four decades. The critics are Jean-Paul Sartre, Irving Howe, Ralph Ellison, Olga W. Vickery, Cleanth Brooks, Michael Millgate, John T. Irwin, Myra Jehlen, Donald M. Kartiganer, David Minter, Warwick Wadlington, John T. Matthews, Thadious M. Davis, Wesley Morris and Barbara Alverson Morris, Minrose C. Gwin, André Bleikasten, and Philip M. Weinstein. A revised Selected Bibliography is also included.
The Summer of the Swans - A Newbery Medal Winner All summer Sara Godfrey has fretted over herself, her impossible body, her terrible new haircut. One moment she’s elated, the next, she’s in tears. And she can’t figure out why. Maybe her wildly changing moods are tied to the sudden and unaccountable appearance of the swans, which hold the rapt attention of Charlie, Sara’s mentally handicapped brother, who she loves far more than herself these days. In fact, it will be the sudden disappearance of Charlie that will compel Sara to abandon her own small, annoying miseries, and lose herself in searching for him. In her anguish, Sara turns to Joe Melby, whom she has long despised, and together they search through the dense woods and rough fields to find him. Sara knows that she will never be the same again. “A compelling story.”—Publishers Weekly
We'll Paint the Octopus Red - Emma and her father discuss what they will do when the new baby arrives, but they adjust their expectations when he is born with Down syndrome.
Bat and the Waiting Game - In the tradition of Clementine and Ramona Quimby, meet Bat. Author Elana K. Arnold returns with another irresistible story of friendship in this widely acclaimed series starring an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life is pretty great. He’s the caretaker of the best baby skunk in the world–even Janie, his older sister, is warming up to Thor. When Janie gets a part in the school play and can’t watch Bat after school, it means some pretty big changes. Someone else has to take care of the skunk kit in the afternoons, Janie is having sleepovers with her new friends, and Bat wants everything to go back to normal.He just has to make it to the night of Janie’s performance. . . .Elana K. Arnold’s Bat trilogy is a proven winner in the home and classroom–kids love these short illustrated young middle grade books. The trilogy is A Boy Called Bat, Bat and the Waiting Game, and Bat and the End of Everything.
Aven Green was born without arms–so when her dad takes a job running a dying western theme park in Arizona, she knows she’ll become the center of unwanted attention at her new school. But she bonds with Connor, a classmate with his own disability to conquer. Then they discover a room at the park that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. Can Aven face her fears, solve a mystery, and help her friend, too?
Winner of the 2018 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award Two starred reviews A New York Public Library Best Kids Book of 2017 A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2017 Wisconsin Library Association CBA Outstanding Books of the Year selection 2018-2019 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award list selection 2018-2019 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award nominee Young Hoosier Book Award nominee The Someday Birds is a debut middle grade novel perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree, filled with humor, heart, and chicken nuggets.Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a tale that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.”Offering a mixture of suspense, mystery, tragedy and humor, Pla’s story captures both the literal and figurative meanings of journey.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)”Pla gives us a memorable hero in this lyrical and funny book.” –Shelf Awareness (starred review)
A book specifically designed to answer various questions that brothers and sisters of young people with autism may have, including “What is autism?”, “Is there a cure?,” and “Why does my brother or sister not look at me?”
The third book in the funny and joyful series Katherine Applegate has called “tender and important,” by National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold.
Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat) has been the caretaker for Thor, the best skunk kit in the world…but the last day of third grade is quickly approaching, and Thor is almost ready to be released into the wild.
The end of school also means that Bat has to say good-bye to his favorite teacher, and he worries about the summer care of Babycakes, their adorable class pet. Not only that, but his best friend is leaving for a long vacation in Canada.
Summer promises good things, too, like working with his mom at the vet clinic and hanging out with his sister, Janie. But Bat can’t help but feel that everything is coming to an end.
National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold returns with the third story starring an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.
Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, and Giselle Potter come together to tell the inspiring story of autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin and her brilliant invention: the hug machine. As a young girl, Temple Grandin loved folding paper kites, making obstacle courses, and building lean-tos. But she really didn’t like hugs. Temple wanted to be held—but to her, hugs felt like being stuffed inside the scratchiest sock in the world; like a tidal wave of dentist drills, sandpaper, and awful cologne, coming at her all at once. Would she ever get to enjoy the comfort of a hug? Then one day, Temple had an idea. If she couldn’t receive a hug, she would make one…she would build a hug machine!
The Space We're in - Ten-year-old Frank has trouble navigating his relationship with his younger brother Max who is autistic. Frank loves soccer, codes, riding his bike, and playing with his friends. His brother Max is five. Max only eats foods that are beige or white, hates baths, and if he has to wear a t-shirt that isn’t gray with yellow stripes he melts down down down. Frank longs for the brother he was promised by his parents before Max was born—someone who was supposed to be his biggest fan, so he could be the best brother in the world. Instead, Frank has trouble navigating Max’s behavior and their relationship. But when tragedy strikes, Frank finds a way to try and repair their fractured family and in doing so learns to love Max for who he is. In her debut novel, Katya Balen uses her knowledge of autism and experience working with autistic people to create an intriguing and intense yet always respectful family story. For readers of Counting by 7s and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.
Team Players - Cassie must learn that you can’t “fix” someone else after a girl with Aspergers joins her softball team in the fourth and final book of the Home Team series from New York Times bestselling author and sports-writing legend Mike Lupica. Cassie Bennett is great at being in charge. She always knows what to do to lead her teams to victory, keep her many groups of friends together, or fix any problem that comes her way. So when Sarah Milligan, an autistic girl with unreal softball skills, joins Cassie’s team, Cassie’s sure she can help her fit in with the team. But before long it’s obvious that being around so many people is really hard for Sarah, and the more Cassie tries to reach out and involve her, the more Sarah pushes her away, sometimes literally. It doesn’t help that Cassie’s teammates aren’t as interested in helping Sarah as they are in making sure they make it to the new softball All-Star Tournament that’ll be televised just like the Little League World Series. Soon no one besides Cassie seems to even want Sarah on the team anymore, and the harder Cassie tries to bring everyone together, the worse things seem to get. Cassie Bennett never backs down from a challenge, but can she realize that maybe the challenge isn’t fixing a problem in someone else, but in herself? Or will her stubbornness lead her to lose more than just softball games?
Scarlet Ibis - Twelve-year-old Scarlet doesn’t have an easy life. She’s never known her dad, her mom suffers from depression, and her younger brother Red has Asperger’s and relies heavily on her to make the world a safe place for him. Scarlet does this by indulging Red’s passion for birds, telling him stories about the day they’ll go to Trinidad and see all the wonderful birds there (especially his beloved Scarlet Ibis), saving her money to take him to the zoo, helping him collect bird feathers, and even caring for a baby pigeon who is nesting outside his window.But things with her mom are getting harder, and after a dangerous accident, Scarlet and Red are taken into foster care and separated. As Scarlet struggles to cope with the sudden changes in her life and her complex feelings towards her mom, the one thing she won’t give up on is finding Red. Nothing is going to get in her way—even if it might destroy the new possibilities offered to her by her foster family.
You Are Enough: A Book about Inclusion - A beautiful and inclusive picture book all about celebrating being yourself from Down syndrome advocate and viral sensation Sofia Sanchez!It can be hard to be differentwhether because of how you look, where you live, or what you can or can’t do. But wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? Being different is great! Being different is what makes you YOU.This inclusive and empowering picture book from Sofia Sanchezan 11-year-old model and actress with Down syndromereminds readers how important it is to embrace your differences, be confident, and be proud of who you are. Imagine all of the wonderful things you can do if you don’t let anyone stop you! You are enough just how you are.Sofia is unique, but her message is universal: We all belong. So each spread features beautiful, full-color illustrations of a full cast of kid characters with all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, and abilities.This book also includes back matter with a brief bio of Sofia and her journey so far, as well as additional information about Down syndrome and how we can all be more accepting, more inclusive, and more kind.
Frustrated at life with an autistic brother, twelve-year-old Catherine longs for a normal existence but her world is further complicated by a friendship with a young paraplegic.
Can you still have a home if you don’t have a house? In the spirit of The Truth About Jellyfish and Fish in a Tree comes a stunning debut about a family struggling to find something lasting when everything feels so fleeting. Always think in threes and you’ll never fall, Cora’s father told her when she was a little girl. Two feet, one hand. Two hands, one foot. That was all Cora needed to know to climb the trees of Brooklyn. But now Cora is a middle schooler, a big sister, and homeless. Her mother is trying to hold the family together after her father’s death, and Cora must look after her sister, Adare, who’s just different, their mother insists. Quick to smile, Adare hates wearing shoes, rarely speaks, and appears untroubled by the question Cora can’t help but ask: How will she find a place to call home? After their room at the shelter is ransacked, Cora’s mother looks to an old friend for help, and Cora finally finds what she has been looking for: Ailanthus altissima, the tree of heaven, which can grow in even the worst conditions. It sets her on a path to discover a deeper truth about where she really belongs. Just Under the Clouds will take root in your heart and blossom long after you’ve turned the last page. [A] heartbreaking yet hopeful story of a family searching for a place to belong. –Publishers Weekly [A] thought provoking debut about the meaning of home and the importance of family.–Horn Book Magazine
A bestselling modern classic–both poignant and funny–about a boy with autism who sets out to solve the murder of a neighbor’s dog and discovers unexpected truths about himself and the world.Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.
The Reverend Lee is suffering from a rare and acutely embarrassing condition: Back-to-Front Dyslexia. It affects only his speech, and he doesn’t realize he’s doing it, but the parishioners of Nibbleswicke are shocked and confused by his seemingly outrageous comments. At last a cure is found and the mild-mannered vicar can resume normal service. Or at least as normal as is possible for a man who must walk backwards to be sure of talking forwards!
A young boy named Charlie describes the activities he shares with his friend Isabelle, a girl with Down Syndrome.
The Boy with Big, Big Feelings - Meet a boy with feelings so big that they glow from his cheeks, spill out of his eyes, and jump up and down on his chest. When a loud truck drives by, he cries. When he hears a joke, he bursts with joy. When his loved ones are having a hard day, he feels their emotions as if they were his own. The boy tries to cope by stuffing down his feelings, but with a little help and artistic inspiration, the boy realizes his feelings are something to be celebrated. Written by debut picture book author Britney Winn Lee and boldly illustrated by Jacob Souva, The Boy with Big, Big Feelings is relatable for any child, but especially for children experiencing anxiety and extreme emotions, or who have been diagnosed with autism or as a Highly Sensitive Person.
Crazy Lady! - Increasingly alienated from his widowed father, Vernon joins his friends in ridiculing the neighborhood outcasts’Maxine, an alcoholic prone to outrageous behavior, and Ronald, her retarded son. But when a social service agency tries to put Ronald into a special home, Vernon fights against the move. 1994 Newbery Honor BookNotable Children’s Books of 1994 (ALA)1994 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)1994 Young Adult Editors’ Choices (BL)1994 Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library)Young Adult Choices for 1995 (IRA)
Al Capone Does My Shirts - A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister Natalie. A Newbery Honor Book &amp;amp; ALA Notable Book. Reprint. Jr Lib Guild &amp;amp; Children’s BOMC.
Special People, Special Ways - Rhyming text drescribes the different ways in which people may vary in physical or mental abilities, and the things they have in common.
When her autistic little brother, Ian, wanders off while on a walk to the park, Julie must try to see the world through his eyes in order to find him. Full color.
Lacking the athletic and reading skills of his older brothers, Prince Noah uses love and compassion to save the kingdom from the Black Knight.
Introducing the new children’s series, KIDS LIKE ME . . . Featuring adorable and diverse children with Down syndrome on every page, and many of their siblings too, these chunky, sturdy books are perfect for youngsters who are ready to start learning skills like their ABCs and colors.
KIDS LIKE ME . . . LEARN ABCs includes appealing photos of children with Down syndrome on a crisp white background, surrounded by colorful borders. Each child holds or interacts with an object that represents a letter of the alphabet. Surrounding images also show that letter in sign language, upper and lower case type, and an illustration of the featured object.
All children will enjoy this book, but children with Down syndrome will delight in seeing other kids just like them, having fun and learning about their ABCs.
Toddlers with Down syndrome show all the things they can do, including swim, share, and play ball. On board pages.
Glenn Marlette is determined to make his brother Paul a decent basketball player and member of his team, the Sabers. Paul is bursting with friendliness and energy, but one thing sets him apart - he is developmentally disabled. Can Glenn help his teammates learn to accept his brother?
My Brother Otto - This engaging picture book shows everyday life with little crow siblings when one of them is on the autism spectrum. My Brother Otto is a child-friendly, endearing, and fun picture book for children about the love, acceptance, and understanding a sister, Piper, has for her little brother Otto, who is on the autism spectrum. The book provides explanations for Otto’s differences and quirkiness in an easy-to-understand language, and highlights Otto’s desires for adventure and love–just like his peers. To be more specific, My Brother Otto is a sweet story about a sister and a brother who engage in common, everyday experiences in their own unique way with the idea that kindness and understanding always win! Meg Raby holds a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology with a certification in Autism Spectrum Disorders from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and has several years of experience working with children ages 2-17 on the autism spectrum. Meg recently started a booming handle on Instagram, called @bedtime.stories.forevermore, promoting literacy and highlighting only the best in children’s books. This is her first book. Elisa Pallmer studied design at Escuela de Diseño del INBA and English Literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Her focus is on illustrations for children, and she lives in Mexico City.
The Chalk Rainbow - The Chalk Rainbow explores difference and diversity through a family living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It’s also a story of unconditional love, of trust and of learning to look at the world through the eyes of others. The story is told by Zane’s older sister in a way that young children can easily relate to. The ending is uplifting as all members of the family learn to look at things differently and find a way to move forward together.
My Friend with Autism - Children describe what makes their autistic friend different but also explain the activities at which he excels, in a book with coloring pages and resources for parents and educators on a CD-ROM.
I Like Berries, Do You? - This light-hearted board book by the author of “I Can, Can You?” and “My Up &amp;amp; Down &amp;amp; All Around Book” features wonderful photographs of young children with Down syndrome enjoying a wide selection of healthful foods, from fruits and vegetables to meats and snacks. Simple, singsong questions – I like broccoli, do you? – invite participation by little ones (aged birth to 4 years) as they anticipate and say the word for the food in each photograph. And when youngsters see children just like themselves eating nutritious foods with different textures, temperatures, colours, tastes, and smells, they will want to try them too! The book encourages a varied diet that can minimise potential sensory or oral-motor issues often associated with Down syndrome. Read it from cover to cover with your child, or tailor it to meet your child’s specific dietary needs (GF/CF, non-allergenic).
When he becomes stronger but slower, Terry must deal with being moved from defensive safety to offensive tackle on his football team.
Hansel &amp;amp; Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist is an enchanting tale about how kindness overcomes callousness and leads to a wondrous reward. This adaptation of the classic Grimms’ tale includes the wicked witch and the poor siblings in search of food, but in this case, five-year-old Hansel is a mischievous, yet courageous, boy with Down syndrome.
Young readers will learn that: -Children with Down syndrome are capable and can achieve extraordinary success with determination. -An act of kindness can transform people and the world. -Treating people like family can create a miracle. -People cannot be judged by appearance; a princess or a hero can be hidden within. -Facing a challenge can lead to unimagined rewards.
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