8 amazing books to read to kids with special needs

Kids of all abilities love to see themselves represented in books. Families of children with special needs can thank publishers for their 2019 books that feature children with autism finding friends and learning to hug, kids with ADHD solving mysteries, a boy with cerebral palsy living his dreams and many more. 

Ben’s Adventures: A Day at the Beach, by Elizabeth Gerlach

Best for ages: 3-6

Ben has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming about a day at the beach. He feels the sand in his toes and the sun on his face, playing with his family and friends. Elizabeth Gerlach wrote the book about her son who was non-verbal and used a chair, hoping to teach other children to be comfortable around kids in wheelchairs. 

A Friend for Henry, by Jenn Bailey

Best for ages: 5-8

The label on the carpet square in Classroom Six says it comes from Rug World, but a boy in Henry’s class says it’s from a genie’s lamp. How Henry sees the world isn’t the same as his classmates as he searches for a friend. Author Jenn Bailey worked with experts to write a book that shows children how kids with autism see the world differently.

How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine, Amy Guglielmo & Jacqueline Tourville with Giselle Potter

Best for ages: 4-8

Like many on the autism spectrum, Temple Grandin was sensitive to touch as a kid. So hugs were out of the question. The book deftly tells the story of how Grandin saw that hugs could be comforting, and she set about to find a way to be happy in one. 

The Happy Book (and other feelings), by Andy Rash

Best for ages: 3-7

Teaching kids what feelings look like is hard for any parent. Giving feelings colors and sounds helps kids of all ages understand why some actions turn into good or bad feelings. 

Norm, by Sylvia Liang

Best for ages: 4-8

Kids of all abilities are rooted in routine. Breaking out of the routine is hard for Normal, who goes by Norm. One day, he meets Odette, whom he calls “Odd.” As Odd teaches Norm about her world, Norm learns to break out of his routine. The book is a perfect way to learn what acceptance looks like. 

The Map Challenge, by Dr. Tracy Packiam Alloway

Best for ages: 5-7

At camp, Sammy balks when he’s asked to be the navigator during a map challenge because of his dyslexia. Once another friend takes over the job, Sammy learns his own way of remembering and helps his fellow campers. In addition to information for kids and parents about how children with dyslexia learn differently, there are questions that readers can ask themselves after reading the story. 

The Classroom Mystery, by Dr. Tracy Packiam Alloway

Best for ages: 5-7

Knowing there was a classroom mystery to be solved, Izzy, who has ADHD, couldn’t sit still in her chair. She used her great memory and problem-solving skills to find the bandit, in a book that helps kids learn about how to cope with ADHD. 

Nobody Hugs A Cactus, by Carter Goodrich

Best for ages: 4-8

Hank lived in a pot in a window in the dry, empty desert and he liked it. He didn’t like visitors and wasn’t looking for friends. Then, one day someone suggested a hug. Hank didn’t want a hug, but then he doesn’t know what a hug is. As kids find change difficult, so does Hank, who is OK sometimes being alone.


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