Lynda Richardson is our NHS Liaison, and she’s an Intensive Interaction Playroom Worker too. She has a special interest in supporting siblings of children with autism. She set up Sibling Superstars, our support group for children who have a brother or sister with autism.
We asked her to pick some books for these children. Books that would not only explain what autism is, but also show them that they are not alone in the issues they face themselves. Because being a sibling of a child with autism isn’t always easy.
Here’s Lynda’s Top Five, plus some honorable mentions.
Julie takes a walk to the park with her big sister Tara, and her younger brother, Ian. On the way, Julie describes all the ways in which Ian’s autism makes him different from other people. Sometimes those differences are really hard to deal with.
When he wanders off and disappears, Julie’s understanding of what makes Ian different is exactly what helps her to find him again. Suitable for ages 5 to 8.
I love this book! The story shows the wide range of emotions a sibling experiences, from embarrassment to overwhelming love. It gives some insight into the traits of autism and how frustrating they can be for siblings. I think this would be a great book for siblings to read. They’ll definitely be able to relate to it. And it might help them understand that they are not alone in what they feel.
Sammy’s sibling struggles with having a ‘special’ brother. Sammy doesn’t join in with games. Sammy doesn’t play like other kids. He can’t even speak. He does everything differently. And sometimes he’s really frustrating. He wishes Sammy could just be normal.
But one day something happens that makes Sammy’s brother see that Sammy is special in ways that have nothing to do with his disability. Suitable for ages 3 to 6.
Some people don’t like using the word “special” to describe children on the spectrum, but for me all children are special, so I like the title! This book is good at showing the differences between siblings when one has autism. It sensitively and accurately illustrates the positive and negative feelings siblings might have.
It’s a good book for parents to read too. It could also help them to understand how their child feels about having a sibling with autism, and how best to support them. I particularly liked how Mum considered taking the boys to school in her car occasionally rather than having them always go on separate buses.
This book is a mother’s attempt to explain why she doesn’t treat all of her children the same way. One of her children is severely autistic. Even though he’s quite big, he still wears in nappies, and when they go outside, he still uses a pushchair. He does things his siblings would never be allowed to do, but isn’t told off for them. Mum explains what makes him behave that way, giving specific reasons, rather than simply saying it’s because he’s autistic. Suitable for ages 4 to 7.
This is a simple book written from a sibling’s perspective. It describes a range of problems that the sibling encounters with their brother who has autism. It then follows up with an explanation for that behaviour. It also gives some strategies for siblings to help their brother/sister.
However, it unfortunately doesn’t give any strategies on how to cope with their own emotions or well being. Which is a shame, because the siblings in the book do have to put up with a lot. But that means that this is actually a good story to read to children who are just beginning to question why their brother or sister is a little bit different. It could lead to some useful and interesting conversations.
This quick read is a friendly book in two parts. In one half Tom explains how autism affects him. He covers things like sensory issues, routine, social communication, and what he likes and doesn’t like.
The other half of the book is about how people can help Tom, in all sorts of ways. There’s lots for adults here, including information on the need for structure, visual aids like social stories, and how to cope with challenging behaviour. But also plenty for children who would like an easy to understand overview of a complicated subject. Suitable for ages 7 to adult.
A lovely book for a range of people including parents, siblings and professionals. This books goes into more detail about what it is like to have autism, along with some of the reasons why children on the spectrum behave the way they do. Support strategies are woven throughout the book.
This is a great book that talks about a complicated subject in a simple way. A good place to start for anyone of any age who wants to know more about autism. The jargon buster at the end will be especially useful to parents of newly diagnosed children. There are also links to national organisations that can help families, and a list of further recommended reads.
This book gives an excellent insight into what it’s like to be autistic. A child explains that while he looks just like other children, he thinks, sees, hears, feels and acts differently. He spins in circles, copies things, and repeats things over and over. He’s not good at sensing danger, or making friends.
We’ll forgive the title of this one, because it’s recommended by none other than Dr. Temple Grandin. She says that the illustrations capture something of what it is like to have autism. It describes the traits of autism accurately but in language appropriate for children. Suitable for ages 5 to 8.
I used this book to help explain autism to my youngest child thirteen years ago. I adapted it to suit her age as necessary. (I also changed some of the American English words to British English.) As we read the book, my daughter recognised many of the traits it talks about and linked them to her sister. The book is written in the first person. Jonathan describes what it is like to have autism. Whilst this is an old book and there are now many books on the market on this subject, I still really like this one.
More books for siblings
The Toby House Library
We want to create a new library at Toby House, full of books like these! We’re looking forward to it becoming a useful and fun resource for children with autism, and their siblings, parents and professionals. When you buy a book via the links and images on our website, The Toby Henderson Trust gets a small percentage of the sale. That money will go directly towards buying books for our library.