April is Autism Awareness Month and while we pay special attention to the autism community this month, we should remember to actively understand, humanize, and advocate for autism rights and similar neurological conditions all the time. And the first step is to educate yourself on the socio-historical context surrounding the autism community in order to grasp a deeper understanding of it. With this month bringing awareness to autism, include these nine books that center on the autistic experience in your reading lists.
1. NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman
This first book is one of modern science’s most comprehensive and detailed research into autism studies. Steve Silberman’s groundbreaking book, NeuroTribes, delves into the history, medical science, and social activism of autism. With his book, Silberman explores the concept of neurodiversity and its impact on humanizing neurological conditions such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. Upon uprooting society’s biases and perspectives on autism, Silberman argues that these neurological conditions are naturally occurring variations in the human genome.
2. Love That Boy by Ron Fournier
Ron Fournier’s Love That Boy takes us on a journey of understanding, empathy, and acceptance. In this memoir, Fournier recounts his own experience raising and connecting with his son who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Through their road trips and a shared love of U.S. presidential history, Fournier communicates a message of loving children without setting expectations to be someone they can’t ever be. The most important thing a parent can do is to attempt to see the world through their children’s eyes and support them the way they want and should be supported.
3. Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
In this book, Temple Grandin, an autistic scientist, paints to us in beautifully written language the world that she lives in. In Thinking in Pictures, Grandin explains to us her world, her coping mechanisms, and her passions through her dual perspective as an autistic woman and scientist. Responsible for designing more than one-third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States, we see the intelligence and determination of how Grandin overcomes her struggles to become the person she is today.
4. The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time takes us into the world of Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher is 15 years old, autistic, and possesses an intelligence for details and numbers. Although he has a difficult time understanding the emotions of those around him and his own feelings, Christopher has learned to associate certain specific things to explain feelings and emotions. One day in his neighborhood, a neighbor’s poodle was mysteriously murdered and instantly caught Christopher’s attention. Through first-person, we enter Christopher’s mission to solve the case of the mysterious murder of the neighborhood poodle.
5. Uniquely Human by Barry M. Prizant
Uniquely Human by Barry M. Prizant is a necessary read for anyone seeking to learn more about understanding people with autism. One of the world’s leading experts on autism, Prizant suggests a groundbreaking approach to the world of autistic studies. Instead of viewing autism as something to be corrected and fixed, he presses the world to understand why people with autism behave a certain way and focus on transforming those “weaknesses” into strengths.
6. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Naoki Higashida’s The Reason I Jump is a memoir taking us into the mind and feelings of a 13-year-old boy with autism. Through his narration, we learn more about a growing young mind and how he lives with autism. We understand more about how the autistic mind thinks, perceives, and feels. Higashida allows us to learn and understand more about autism and how people with autism navigate and process the things that happen in their daily lives.
7. In a Different Key by John Donvan and Caren Zucker
In a Different Key by John Donvan and Caren Zucker takes us to a time when children with autism were condemned to institutions and leading experts were quick to treat autism as a regressive disability. Donvan and Zucker’s research traces the path that the parents of these children took to make the world see and understand autism as just a difference of perspectives instead of a disability.
8. Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison
John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye is a memoir about his life growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome. He notes how different he is and how his differences labeled him as a “social deviant” in the eyes of those around him. When he was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 40, his whole world changed. In this unique memoir, Robison talks about how his diagnosis transformed his life and his understanding of his world.
9. Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst allows us to see how a family works together to understand and help the oldest daughter, Tilly, who has autism. Told in alternating perspectives by the family members, the Hammonds move to be close to Camp Harmony in order to give the help and acceptance that Tilly needs. Through their experiences, this move becomes a transition that changes the lives of the Hammond family.
Be sure to check out these books and remember every neurodivergent person is different and unique–celebrate them all and their achievements however they may come.
For more recommendations, take a look at this article about feminist reads.