Books have been essential to humankind, ever since the first Egyptian put pen to papyrus (so to speak!). In recent years there has been an explosion in stories about disability, and they all speak to the richness of human experience. From memoirs to satire and picture books about kids living on the spectrum, we are pleased to share 10 invaluable books about disability and special needs.
Title: I See Things Differently
Author: Pat Thomas
Brief description: “I See Things Differently” is a unique and delightful picture book that explains what autism is like, in simple words that children can understand. The best part is that is written from the perspective of someone who has autism, enabling their peers to get an insight into life on the spectrum.
Why we love it: Anything that helps kids understand what life is like for people with autism can only be a wonderful thing.
Title: Don’t Stop the Music
Author: Robert Perske
Brief description: This is a fictional account of two teenagers with cerebral palsy, who cannot speak – yet none of that stops Joe and Jessica from solving a car-theft chase as amateur sleuths. Unusual for the inclusion of two disabled people as the main characters, “Don’t Stop the Music” is a fast-paced thriller.
Why we love it: We love that the two protagonists with cerebral palsy are central to the story, and that their abilities are what defines them.
Title: Parenting ASD Kids
Author: Andrew Schlegelmilch
Brief description: Parenting ASD Kids is a straight-talking text for parents of teenagers on the autism spectrum. Chock-full of down to earth advice, this aims to help families through those rocky years when hormones, peer pressure, the transition to early adulthood and ASD collide.
Why we love it: The tagline is “A guide to making it up as you go”, which is the most honest statement about parenting ever.
Title: Criptionary: Disability Humor and Satire
Author: Maria R. Palacios
Brief description: Not for the faint-hearted, Criptionary takes the English language as we know it and shreds it with satirical genius. It’s target? Derogatory and offensive terms about disability. The book lampoons them with glee, and reclaims them all with gusto.
Why we love it: Criptionary has cheeky sense of wicked humour and a laugh out loud brilliance that cannot be denied.
Title: Owning It: Stories About Teens With Disabilities
Author: Donald R. Gallo (editor)
Brief description: Being a teenager is tough at the best of times, and dealing with disability on top of that poses another set of challenges. “Owning It” is an empowering text for adolescents; a compilation of short stories about teens with a variety of physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities.
Why we love it: Teenagers rarely see their disabled peers portrayed in popular culture, so this is a truly important text for young people.
Title: Chelsea and Her Little Ear Make a Friend
Author: Simone Cheadle
Brief description: Chelsea has a rare condition called microtia and aural atresia, which means she has a small, deformed ear and needs to wear a hearing aid. This is a picture book aimed at small children, and encourages the acceptance of people who have visible facial differences.
Why we love it: This wonderful little book is designed to start open dialogue at schools and preschools, to prevent bullying and exclusion.
Title: Thicker than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities
Author: Don Meyer (editor)
Brief description: “Thicker than Water” is a remarkable text that contains essays from the adult siblings of people with disabilities. More than just a book, this is like 39 mini-memoirs in one, and it gives voice to the remarkable diversity of disability experiences, through the eyes of their family members.
Why we love it: Heartfelt and heartbreaking in equal measure, the depth of love that holds families together is what really resonates.
Title: Laughing at My Nightmare
Author: Shane Burcaw
Brief description: Shane Burcaw’s hilarious memoir is a rollicking journey through the challenges he has faced as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. In amidst all the laughter there are also important lessons to be had, about what it is like to have a life threatening disease.
Why we love it: “Laughing at My Nightmare” is laugh-out loud funny in parts, but it’s also a sobering glimpse into the daily struggle of living with disability.
Title: My Left Foot
Author: Christy Brown
Brief description: “My Left Foot” tells of the childhood and adolescence of Christy Brown. Born with severe cerebral palsy, he is unable to communicate or control his movements. Despite all of this his mother believes that his mind is unaffected, and her belief in him never falters.
Why we love it: There is a reason why this book is a classic. Beautifully written, it’s one of the first ever stories of its kind.
Title: Too Late to Die Young
Author: Harriet McBryde Johnson
Brief description: Born with a congenital neuromuscular disease, Johnson has never been able to walk, dress, or bathe without assistance. This compelling memoir opens with a meditation on death and ends with a bold sermon on pleasure, as we follow her on the journey to become an attorney and activist.
Why we love it: “Too Late to Die Young” is an incredible tale of survival, and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
There are countless books about the experience of living with a disability, and it was our great pleasure to compile this (regrettably) short list of our favourites – we hope you find them as enjoyable and enriching as we did.