World Autism Awareness Day: April 2, 2021

March 29, 2021 | Eleni

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April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. On this day, and for the entire month of April, communities and organizations around the world raise awareness about people with autism as well as those who love and support them. Our children's librarians put together Disability: Read Up On It, a list of books featuring positive representations of different disabilities, including autism. Check out the full booklist for more recommended reads. 

Book cover collage with three titles from the Positive Representation of Disability booklist

Autism Ontario defines autism, or autism spectrum disorder, as "a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people and the world around them. It can affect body language and posture, social interactions and relationships, how you engage with your interests, and sensory processing capacities. Autism exists in all cultures, ethnicities, races, and gender identities." 

There are many types of autism which are influenced by different combinations of genetics and the environment. This is why the word "spectrum" is used to describe the range of strengths and challenges for each individual with autism. According to a 2018 report presented by the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System (NASS), it is estimated that 1 in 66 children and youth (ages 5-17) in Canada have autism. Children with autism and their families and caregivers have the right to equitable access of education, health care, community resources and other vital supports.

In recognition and celebration of World Autism Awareness Day, here is a list of recommended reads:

Talking is Not My Thing by Rose Robbins

Talking is Not My Thing, written and illustrated by Rose Robbins (ages 0-5)

This little sister might not use words, but she's got plenty to say! Narrated through thought bubbles, this energetic book invites readers into the day of a nonverbal girl with autism.

In My World by Jullian Ma

In My World by Jillian Ma, illustrated by Mimi Chao (ages 0-6)

This inspiring book is told from the perspective of a child with autism, who knows he can do so many wonderful things in his world. The story encourages everyone to see people for more than their disability; to support one another and help make dreams come true.

My Brother Charlie by Holly Peete and Ryan Peete

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (ages 3-7)

A girl shares what it is like living with her twin brother. Charlie has autism and sometimes finds it hard to communicate with words. But in most ways, he is just like any other boy. 

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley (ages 4-8)

A true story about the life of Dr. Temple Grandin, who grew up at a time when children with autism had far fewer supports in place for them. After an incident that got Dr. Grandin kicked out of school, she went to live on a farm with her aunt. Dr. Grandin grew up to be a scientist who made inventions for farms and won many honors and prizes. Dr. Grandin's message to everyone is that differences are what makes us unique, and never let doubt hold you back from doing what you love!

Duck Days by Sara Leach

Duck Days by Sara Leach, illustrated by Rebecca Bender (ages 5-8)

Lately, Lauren has been finding it difficult to "go with the flow" when things happen in her life that she did not expect. Her best friend has a new friend that Lauren does not want to hang out with. Her school has also just announced a "mountain-biking day" which Lauren is scared to participate in as she still uses training wheels on her bike. With the help of some old and new friends, can Lauren face her fears and learn how to go with the flow? This book is the third book in the Slug Days series by Canadian author Sara Leach. 

Get a Grip  Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit (ages 8-12)

This #OwnVoices novel (meaning the author is a member of the marginalized community that the book focuses on) follows the journey of Vivy Cohen, a girl who is tired of playing catch in the park and is ready to join a real baseball team. Her mom, however, is worried about her joining a team where she is the only girl, and the only person with autism. When she finally does join the team, she suffers an injury that puts her back on the bench. This charming story celebrates diversity and the unwavering determination of someone following their dreams!

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos (ages 9 and up)

Twelve-year-old Nova and her big sister, Bridget, love astronomy and are excitedly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. But then Nova is moved to new foster home and Bridget disappears without a trace. Nova is autistic and, without Bridget, Nova must find a way to navigate her world on her own and show the people are around her that there is so much more to her than what they first perceive. 

The Space We're In by Katya Balen

The Space We're In by Katya Balen (ages 9 and up)

Ten-year-old Frank has trouble navigating his relationship with his younger brother, Max. Max has autism and Frank often feels his life has to circle around Max. But when tragedy strikes, Frank finds a way to try to repair their fractured family, and in doing so learns to love Max for who he is.


For more great titles for young readers, check out our Disability: Read Up on It! booklist. Visit our website for more information on Accessible Collections for children.