10 Kids' Books That Star Protagonists with Special Needs
These 10 books are just some of the many options that feature kids with special needs–and their siblings–fighting crime, solving mysteries, navigating school, loving each other, making friends, and just being awesome.
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We’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Six-year-old Emma can’t wait for all the things she’ll be able to do with her baby brother, Isaac. When she learns he has Down syndrome, she starts thinking in terms of what Isaac can’t do. But with the help of her dad, Emma learns to be patient with Isaac, and discovers that with compassion (and a good big sister!), Isaac can do anything. This is perfect for little readers ages 3-7 and showcases the power of compassion and acceptance–and because of that, is a great read for kids of all ages.
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Jason is a 12-year-old with autism who doesn’t feel like he belongs in the neurotypical world. But that begins to change when he meets PhoenixBird–aka Rebecca–online, posting stories to the same site he does. Jason can finally be himself. He thinks Rebecca could be his first real friend, but is terrified that if they meet in person, Rebecca won’t be able to see past Jason’s disability. This novel is an eye-opener into differences, acceptance, and what it means to be yourself.
Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook
Anxiety in kids often goes misdiagnosed, but worriers will definitely see themselves in Wilma Jean, a little girl who sometimes finds her anxiety impeding her life. The book aims to normalize anxiety for kids, give kids the tools to feel more in control, and provide parents with tips for lessening the severity of their child’s anxiety–all while telling a funny and relatable story.
Counting to D by Kate Scott
Sam is dyslexic, smart, and can’t read–so kids at her old school never knew how to treat her. When Sam moves to a new city and falls in with the Brain Trust, a group of über-competitive smart kids that includes her new crush, she decides to keep her learning disability a secret. But the odds of getting the guy, the grades, and more are stacked against her. Readers who have learning disabilities of their own–and really any reader–can relate to Sam’s challenges and triumphs.
My Brother Sammy is Special by Becky Edwards and David Armitage
Younger kids who have siblings with special needs might see themselves in Sammy’s brother, who gets frustrated by all the things Sammy cannot do–like take the same school bus, play in the park, or be a “normal” brother. But just as Sammy’s brother learns that Sammy’s autism doesn’t mean he can’t be a good brother, readers will learn an important lesson about acceptance, differences, and the power of family.