Whether we are reading to them or with them, books that put kids with disabilities at the center of the storyline benefit all children. For kids who have a disability, seeing themselves represented is validating and empowering. And children who do not have a disability can gain insight and empathy into the world of someone who does.
When it comes to children’s books, inclusion matters, and no one knows that better than parents of a child with a disability who has spent hours combing shelves trying to find a book that relates to their child. Many of the books on this list were written by parents of children with disabilities who wanted to see their children, and children like them, as the hero of the story. Scroll on for 11 great reads.
If you buy something from the links in this article, we may earn affiliate commission or compensation.
Meet ClaraBelle Blue$6 BUY NOW
When mother and author Adiba Nelson struggled to find a single children's book that showed a Black child with disabilities, she wrote one herself. Inspired by Nelson's desire for her child, who has cerebral palsy, to see herself joyfully in a book and the world around her, Adiba wrote Meet Clarabelle Blue to do just that. Follow Clarabelle through her day and learn how she is just like you—she loves to giggle, she has to brush her teeth, she loves to laugh—just like all kids. An important book for children of all abilities to read to gain insight, compassion, and the importance of representation. Also available in Spanish.
Unique, You See: Autism$11 BUY NOW
Written by the parent of a young child with autism, this book follows Landon, a boy who loves to play with his friends but struggles to communicate with others. Not only does it help show any kiddos on the spectrum that they're not alone, but it also educates all readers on some of the traits and behaviors linked to ASD. Above all, it serves as a reminder that each of us is unique and deserving of love and friendship.
The Amazing Sensational Kids Series$15 BUY NOW
Inspired by their son, husband and wife co-authors Jamiyl and Tracy-Ann Samuels wrote The Amazing Sensational Kids series to empower children with autism as well as create empathy for those who have children on the spectrum in their life. All their books are fantastic, but The Sensationally Super Sandy stands out. Sandy has a big brother who doesn’t always speak or play with her, but as her parents explain to her what having autism means, Sandy learns how important it is to be kind when someone is different. And Sandy takes that to heart on the school playground.
Both main characters are relatable and loveable. The book gives perspective on what it can feel like to be the sibling of someone with autism and provides a very clear explanation of what autism is for children of any age. By Jamiyl Samuels and Tracy-Ann Samuels, illustrated by Nidhom.
Too Sticky: Sensory Issues with Autism$15 BUY NOW
Children on the autism spectrum frequently have sensory issues, including disliking certain textures. Such is the case with our little hero, Holly, who loves science and doing experiments. But she is upset when she finds out the next experiment is going to be slime, something she strongly dislikes because it is too sticky! Together Holly, her teacher and her parents find a solution. Ages: 4-8. By Jen Malia, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.
Sensory Seeking Sebastiaan$10 BUY NOW
Beautifully written by a parent with a child who has ADHD and Proprioceptive Sensory Disorder, this book is designed to empower sensory seekers and educate both sensory seekers and those around them with strategies that will help with self-regulation. But don’t just take our word for it, take their son’s: “This book gives me strategies to calm down,” he says. Using straightforward strategies and relatable language, this book is based on years of first-hand experience and Occupational Therapy. For any age child with ADHD, an SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder), and their families. Written by Christia DeShields, illustrated by Marissa Nelson.
The Fastest Woman on Earth$19 BUY NOW
From Francesca Cavello, co-author of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Paralympian Tatanya McFadden. Born in Russia with spina bifida, Tatanya lived the first six years of her life in an orphanage, where she learned to walk on her hands. After being adopted by her moms and moving to the US, McFadden began wheelchair racing at the age of just eight years old. The images by Luis San Vicente invoke the astounding speed and movement of this Paralympic star.
Xander's Cerebral Palsy Superpowers$13 BUY NOW
With a little boy named Xander as the narrator, the book explains all about cerebral palsy, including causes, types, and how it affects both him and his friends with cerebral palsy. This book teaches children about cerebral palsy and provides a representation of a strong, positive character for children with cerebral palsy to relate to and be proud of. Best for children ages 4-8 but is suitable for all ages. Written by Lori Leigh Yarborough and illustrated by Roksana Oslizlo.
El Deafo$11 BUY NOW
This graphic novel geared toward children 8-12 not only made the New York Times bestseller list, it also won a Newbery Honor award. Based on Cece Bell’s own life as the only deaf child in a school of hearing children, Bell wore a hearing aid which allowed her to hear a little more than just the lesson plans. This humorous story reminds children that being different is good and that those differences are actually what become your superpowers. El Deafo is also now an animated series. Written and illustrated by Cece Bell.
Where Is Marshmallow?$11 BUY NOW
This inclusive book for elementary-aged kids (ages 7-9) features multiple heroes who are on the search for Marshmallow, the classroom bunny. When Marshmallow goes missing, two students find him; one with a visual impairment and the other who has autism. Once found, the bunny is comforted by a student with down syndrome. By Kathryn Lynn Seifert with illustrations by Ann Murray and Jean Weir.
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay$17 BUY NOW
Zulay and her three best friends love the first grade. Zulay is blind, but she loves to do what all the other kids do, and study what they study. When the school’s Field Day comes along, Zulay announces she wants to run a race. With the help of her friends and a teacher, Zulay accomplishes her goal. The book, for ages 4-8, includes the Braille alphabet. Written by Cari Best and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.
We Want to Go to School!: The Fight for Disability Rights$17 BUY NOW
Before 1971, millions of children in the United States were not allowed in public schools. But in 1971, seven kids and their families stood up for equal education and equal rights and went to court to fight for it. Co-authored by Janine Leffler and her mother, children’s book author and illustrator Maryann Cocca-Leffler, this book tells the story of Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia, which changed the course of disability education. Maryann has written a series of books based on her daughter Janine, who was born with cerebral palsy, but this is the first time they have written a book together.
This book will teach children ages 5-9, and all children and their grown-ups, about a landmark case that is not well-known. It is especially impactful for children to read at school to understand the significance of the law, the activists who fought for it, and both the history and future of disability education in the United States.