We are lucky to live in an age of increasing autism awareness. Still, in spite of all the awareness—and a cornucopia of books on ASD—there are very few kids books out there that focus on teaching the child to appreciate and value himself.
While it's obviously crucial to educate family and friends about autism, to my mind, it's equally (if not more) important to foster self-esteem in the child with the disorder.
Like many parents, I'm wary of sitting my son down and having "the A-talk" about his diagnosis. There is no perfect time when it comes to discussing your child's ASD. Ideally, that moment shouldn't be awkward or overly formal, yet I don't want to put it off forever.
After all, my son may only be five-going-on-six, but he's keenly aware that he's not like other kids his age. I want him to believe that even though his difference means he faces extra challenges, he has so many gifts and talents that set him apart.
So, imagine our mutual delight when I came across I Am Utterly Unique, an alphabet picture book that sets out the many strengths of kids on the spectrum.
Not only does it describe my guy to a tee, Utterly Unique is simple enough to be age-appropriate, while providing a validating message.
Here are my personal top 5 (randomly ordered) picks for teaching young children about their autism:
I Am Utterly Unique: Celebrating the Strengths of Children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism, by Elaine M. Larson
A simple alphabet book highlighting the many abilities of little kids with autism.
My Autism Book: A Child's Guide to Their Autistic Spectrum, by Gloria Dura-Vila and Tamar Levi
A clear and colourful exploration of some struggles and strengths common to young children on the spectrum.
David's World: A Picture Book about Living with Autism, by Dagmar H. Mueller
Although this book is from a sibling perspective, it's a frank and realistic take on some of David's challenges.
Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes, by Jennifer Elder
An inspirational book that presents famous role models suspected of having autism who excelled in their respective fields, from Albert Einstein, Dian Fossey and Wassily Kandinsky to Lewis Carroll.
In My Mind: The World Through the Eyes of Autism, by Adonya Wong
There is more going on than meets the eye in a child with ASD, who may be experiencing so much even if he doesn't express it conventionally.