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The best books to empower your neurodivergent kid

Lise Bosch

Lise Bosch

Lise is a South African-born and Aussie-raised creative working as Kiindred's in-house writer and editor. With a journalism degree and experience in the beauty industry, she has a passion for family and lifestyle content. On her days off, she’s finding the latest and greatest brunch spots and trying to work through the longest TBR list known to humankind. It’s a work in...
Created on Apr 22, 2024 · 4 mins read
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We all want to see ourselves reflected in the stories we read.

To feel understood by characters we relate to,  externally and internally. We can follow their journey – their story arc – to gain an insight into ourselves. Nudging away the notion that there’s anything wrong with us because we can see that our experiences are shared. And importantly, valid. 

Representation reinforces a healthy sense of who we are. It also shapes an understanding of the world around us; establishing whose stories are worth sharing and whose are not. 

The books we read to children are inseparable from how they position themselves on the scale of “normal” (the very concept of which is broken and alienating). 

Clinical Psychologist Emily Hanlon, also known as “the Playful Psychologist”, has given us her top book recs for stories that empower neurodivergent kids. Where they can see themselves mirrored in characters, and learn that there is strength in our differences.

1. Remarkable Remy by Melanie Heyworth

Dr Melanie Heyworth is the founder and co-CEO of the Autistic-led charity, Reframing Autism. She’s also the author of Remarkable Remy, a warm and optimistic story that explains the Autistic brain to show how neurodivergent friends make the world remarkable. 

“My best friend’s name is Remy. I think Remy is remarkable. Remy is Autistic. That means Remy’s brain works differently to my brain. I love that Remy is different to me, because Remy can teach me new ways to experience the world.”

Perfect for ages 3 and up, Remarkable Remy reaches into the magic of differences and wonder of being uniquely you. 

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2. The Rainbow Brain by Sandhya Menon

Flushed with bold, bright colours and delightful illustrations, this book describes what it’s like to be both Autistic and ADHD. As a “neuro-affirming introduction to identity”, it explores the opposing sides of an AuDHD brain with empathy and understanding. 

It also weaves in other forms of neurodivergence such as Tourette’s, Intellectual Disability, and Dyslexia; plotting together an awareness (and often, a celebration) of neurodiversity. 

Simple, accessible, and informative, these insights are easy for little ones to digest. The cute designs seal the deal on an engaging read. 

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3. The Brain Forest by Sandhya Menon

Another favourite by author Sandhya Menon, the Brain Forest represents and normalises neurodiversity through the metaphor of just that – a brain forest!

It illustrates that brains come in all shapes and forms, “Brains that go fast, brains that go slow, brains that do what they’re told, brains that say NO!”

This approachable image encourages conversations about accommodations, inclusivity, and understanding for all. 

It covers brain types like:

  • Neurotypical
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • OCD
  • Pervasive Drive for Autonomy (PDA)
  • Intellectual Disability 
  • Giftedness
  • Dual Diagnosis

Vivid artwork communicates these differences with fun and playfulness. 

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4. My Brother Otto by Meg Raby

Once upon a time, there were two little crow siblings – Piper and Otto.  Otto was on the autism spectrum. This is their heartfelt, ever-endearing story. 

Through the lense of Piper, we see the love, acceptance, and understanding she has for her little brother Otto. 

The charming artworks and simple story explain Otto’s differences and quirkiness as part of the bigger picture of Otto; a crow who desires adventure and fun. 

The author, Meg Raby, holds a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology with a certification in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Safe to say, she knows what she’s doing. 

Buy now

5. We do things differently: A sibling's guide to growing up in a neurodiverse household

Do you have a neurotypical child who struggles with feeling left out or overlooked? Siblings of neurodivergent children can also need support; to understand their sibling’s behaviour and needs, and make sense of their family’s dynamic. 

Clinical Psychologist Emily Hanlon is really passionate about this topic. So, she created a three-part resource to guide families along this journey. As part of it, there’s a beautiful picturebook that highlights the struggles often faced by siblings., and helps them to understand the behaviour of their neurodivergent siblings better. 

The pack also includes a parent workbook (with recommendations for communication and connection, and scripts to help explain) and a sibling guide and workbook (with journal prompts and worksheets) to help them explore and communicate their feelings. 

It’s practical, empathetic, and empowering resource for your entire family. 

Buy now

Wrapping it up

We compile takeaways from stories into our perception of ourselves and others. Children do it too. So much of how they understand the beauty of their brain comes from empathising with a character like them. Seeing the strengths of the character, and at times, the areas they might need some support in. 

That’s why books about neurodiversity matter.

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