Inspiring Children's Books About Special Needs
A roundup of our favorite books featuring characters living with or affected by special needs
Words Nicole Jordan
Published March 2013
Updated January 24, 2019
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Whether you’re hoping to show your child with special needs that it’s OK to be different or promote empathy in siblings, friends or students, children’s books featuring characters with special needs can be useful educational tools. There are a number of books out there; we rounded up a handful of our favorites based on reviews, reader suggestions and ol’ fashioned bias. Do you have a favorite children’s book for kids with special needs? Let us know on our Facebook page at facebook.com/DFWThrivemagazine.

Jenna’s Brother Has Autism
By Amber Fernbach
Jenna’s Brother Has Autism is written for children but beneficial for anyone who knows someone on the autism spectrum. The book describes common characteristics of and behavior exhibited by a person with autism, in an informative and sensitive manner. Author Amber Fernbach’s two children are on the autism spectrum.
Jenna’s Brother Has Autism, $9.75
amazon.com
createspace.com

Allie the Allergic Elephant 
By Nicole Smith
A dollop of peanut butter can be life threatening to a child with severe food allergies. Allie the Allergic Elephantteaches children, parents and educators all about food allergies and how to be a good friend without sharing snacks. Peanut allergies are explained in an easy-to-understand manner alongside fun illustrations of the adorable elephant, Allie.
Allie the Allergic Elephant, $12.78
amazon.com
barnesandnoble.com

We’ll Paint the Octopus Red 
By Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Six-year-old Emma is thrilled to be a big sister, but when her little brother Isaac is born with Down syndrome she becomes worried that she won’t be able to do all of the things with him that she dreamed of. With help from her parents, Emma realizes that Isaac is the little brother she dreamed of and with a little bit of patience, there isn’t anything he won’t be able to do. We’ll Paint the Octopus Red is best for ages 3-7 and includes answers to commonly asked questions about Down syndrome and how it might affect the whole family.
We’ll Paint the Octopus Red, $15.95
amazon.com
woodbinehouse.com

It’s Okay to Be Different 
By Todd Parr
It’s Okay to Be Different is the perfect early reader for teaching young children the important messages of acceptance, understanding and confidence. Kids are encouraged to celebrate what makes them unique and to accept others and what makes them unique in this kid-friendly picture book filled with bright colors and silly scenes.
It’s Okay to Be Different, $5.74
amazon.com

A Very Special Critter
By Gina and Mercer Mayer
Alex is new to school and some of the kids aren’t sure how to act around him because he is in a wheelchair. The narrator of A Very Special Critter figures out that Alex isn’t so different from the rest of his friends. He might need a little bit of help sometimes, but Alex is a good friend and can even play dodge ball.
A Very Special Critter, $11.94
amazon.com

Special People, Special Ways
By Arlene Maguire
Special People, Special Ways focuses on all the ways people with disabilities and able-bodied people are the same on the inside. Though we might appear different on the outside, we all need laughter, hugs and understanding. Watercolor illustrations and rhythmic storytelling engage children from page to page. Special People, Special Ways portrays positive images of children with an array of disabilities.
Special People, Special Ways, $10.80
barnesandnoble.com

The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-so-obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens With Asperger Syndrome
By Jennifer Cook O’Toole
Written by an “aspie” for “aspies,” this guidebook is designed to help tweens and teens living with Asperger syndrome learn various social rules that may be obvious to a lot of people, but are challenging for Asperkids. There is nothing preachy or patronizing about the book. O’Toole was once an Asperkid herself and is raising three children with Asperger syndrome; she tackles the topics with respect, humor and the unique insight that her personal experiences give her.
The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules, $14.40
barnesandnoble.com

New Opportunities
By Michelle White
Spiney the Porcupine has an accident, which results in spinal cord injury. The porcupine is paralyzed and becomes limited in many ways. Instead of giving up, Spiney looks for new opportunities and chooses to write a book explaining her injury to those around her. The story of Spiney is inspired by the author’s true-life experience with disability. As a teacher, Michelle White saw the importance of communicating her experience to children and stressing the importance of working to overcome obstacles, whatever your disability.
New Opportunities, $15.22
amazon.com