- Best Books on Autism
- 1. Population One: Autism, Adversity, and the Will to Succeed by Tyler McNamer
- 2. Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry Prizant Ph.D. and Tom Fields-Meyer
- 3. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida (Translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell)
- 4. An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn by Sally Rogers Ph.D., Geraldine Dawson Ph.D., and Laurie Vismara Ph.D.
- 5. The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders by Mary Lynch Barbera Ph.D.
- 6. Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
- 7. How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger’s
- What Is ABA?
- Our Final Recommendations
According to the National Autism Association, autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that affects one in every 54 children in the USA alone.
While it has no direct effect on one’s longevity, those with autism usually have other medical conditions.
They also have issues with communication, social interactions, and learning.
The article also stated that autism doesn’t have a cure, but there are ways to overcome symptoms.
Thus, research about the subject is essential in learning how to live with it.
This is what motivated us to share with you a quick review of five of the best books on autism.
Best Books on Autism
An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn
1. Population One: Autism, Adversity, and the Will to Succeed by Tyler McNamer
Most books on autism are written by experts who have dedicated their lives to learning the various aspects of the developmental issue.
There is also a huge percentage of resources written by parents themselves, offering a closer, more intimate view from a parent’s perspective.
Then, there are extraordinary autism books, like Population One: Autism, Adversity, and the Will to Succeed, that is written by the person who has autism himself.
These books allow us to be in the person’s shoes and get a first-hand account of what it’s really like to have autism.
Tyler McNamer was diagnosed with it at the young age of two, and this book chronicles the challenges he faced with this label and how he eventually overcame it.
He also shared how he changed his mindset, from viewing autism as a disability to recognizing it as an extraordinary ability that can be utilized for success instead of something that can hold him back.
The 205-page book contains fifty chapters covering various subjects, including leadership, bullying, and acceptance.
Interestingly, these are also the same topics that McNamer talks about whenever various schools and organizations invite him to speak.
If you’re looking for a guide, though, this book is not for you. It is not a reference material and doesn’t really try to be.
Population One is more like a memoir of McNamer’s life.
It is also important to note that the author wrote this book when he was just 17.
Thus, it reserves a lot of room for improvement in terms of writing expertise and experience.
- First-hand account on autism
- Covers a wide variety of subjects
- 50 chapters included
- Might seem immature or poorly written for some readers
2. Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry Prizant Ph.D. and Tom Fields-Meyer
Those who would rather prefer reading a book written by somebody with decades of experience would certainly find the Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism more helpful.
Barry Prizant spent four decades of his life working with thousands of families.
You can say that this book is a culmination of his careerーexpertise and experiences included.
In fact, the Chicago Tribune dubbed this book as a “required reading” for people who work with autism, making it one of the most widely read autism books when it was first published.
Some of the things that you can expect to read from this 256-page book are:
- How to understand the experiences and feelings of someone with autism in order to help them face their daily challenges with confidence.
- How to teach people struggling with autism to navigate human behavior and communication complexities by recognizing gestures, body language, and other situation cues.
- How to help someone with autism find their passion and build their self-esteem through its practice.
The only downside of this book is that it was based too much on Prizant’s practice that it was light on the subject’s theoretical aspect.
- Written by experts
- Covers a wide variety of subjects
- Based on 40 years of practice
- Lacking the theoretical aspect of autism
3. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida (Translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell)
Here is another insightful book on what it is like inside the head of someone who has autism.
As the title suggests, Naoki Higashida was only 13 years old when he wrote this book.
This book’s objective, which is also written like a memoir, is to answer some of the questions that most of us have always been curious about.
Questions such as “Why do people with autism talk loud and weird?” and “Why do they make eye contact?”
The Reason I Jump is quite a short read with only 135 pages, written in a FAQ-like format.
Higashida answered all the questions painstakingly, using an alphabet grid in order to formulate his thoughts, words, and sentences.
That in itself already makes this book worth your while.
However, as you may expect with a book any 13-year-old would have written, this piece has much to improve on.
First, it is written in a very romanticized language that we’re guessing is caused by its translation.
For instance, when asked why he likes water, one of his answers is because he yearns to return to a “primeval era”; to a period when human beings didn’t even exist yet.
Next, there are also many generalizations, or simply put, a lot of “we” in his answers.
Again, this could have been another lapse in translation, or Higashida sincerely believed that everyone with autism was exactly like him. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Finally, The Reason I Jump is also terribly short that some may find lacking.
Hence, we believe that this book is simply something to be experienced and not referenced.
- First-hand account of autism
- Easy and quick read
- Romanticized language
- A lot of generalizations
4. An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn by Sally Rogers Ph.D., Geraldine Dawson Ph.D., and Laurie Vismara Ph.D.
Reading a memoir-type book like a couple of the ones we have featured above offers much insight into the personal experiences of other people with autism.
It might give you an idea of how people with autism perceive things.
Meanwhile, the approach that Prizant and Fields-Meyer presented in their book presented an expert’s point of view.
While these types of books do offer value, otherwise, we wouldn’t even include them in this lineup, they do lack something that parents or guardians would appreciate: how-tos.
Fortunately, that’s what Drs. Rogers, Dawson, and Vismara shares in this piece.
An Early Start for Your Child with Autism is pretty substantial given that it has 342 pages.
In fact, it’s the longest of the best books about autism that we have featured so far.
These pages are then divided into two sections. First, a part dedicated to setting up an early intervention program as a parent.
Second, a part containing all the guides and actionable steps that you can do at home every day.
These guides cover a wide range of various areas, such as how to get your child’s attention and how to teach him nonverbal communication cues.
Please take note, though, that this book is heavily based on the Early Start Denver Model and applied behavior analysis (or ABA) methods.
As such, it might not be in line with your preferred methods and schools of thought.
- Contains actionable steps
- Easy to follow and apply
- Substantial content offered
- Based on ABA methods that others might not approve
5. The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders by Mary Lynch Barbera Ph.D.
On the other hand, if you approve of ABA, then here’s another book that applies it.
Most of the experts who have published books on autism started with an initial interest academically.
They choose this area of study amidst others because it’s a path that they see themselves taking.
That is not how Mary Lynch Barbera got into this realm of study, though.
She entered the world of autism back in the 1990s when her first-born manifested the symptoms of autism.
That then motivated her to learn more about it.
How much? Well, she obtained a doctorate and became a board-certified behavior analyst.
Since then, she had authored books, gave international talks, and even offered courses to help both parents and professionals deal with autism.
This 199-page book seeks to give parents an introduction to ABA and how to use its methods to help children with autism, especially those with extremely minimal language skills.
It also offers other actionable steps that parents can do to assist their kids in other self-help skills.
While we appreciate the balance between theory and practice in this book, we still recognize that it’s not for everyone.
That’s because we have encountered both parents and professionals who are not particularly sold on the ABA approach.
Our only real issue with The Verbal Behavior Approach, though, is that we have found it too short.
Two hundred pages are simply not enough to achieve the level of understanding that we would have wanted to get from this book.
Not to mention that it is within this book’s objectives to provide both the theoretical and practical aspects of the approach.
- Contains actionable steps
- Easy to follow and apply
- Balanced content between theory and practice
- Based on ABA methods that others might not approve
6. Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
Communicating with an autistic child can be very difficult, but if you know what you are doing, it is certainly not impossible, something that you will learn in this fantastic book.
This particular book is written by Ellen Notbohm, a parent of children with both autism and ADHD, as well as a celebrated author of autism. In this book, Ellen shares her personal experiences as a parent of a child with autism, and how she dealt with the trials and tribulations that come along with it.
The main focus of this book is to teach parents how to communicate with their autistic children. Yes, children who are on the spectrum often have communication issuses, sometimes very severe issues, which can make their lives very difficult.
Moreover, parents who have children with severe autism may find it nearly impossible to communicate with their kids, to really find out what they want. Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew helps parents by showing them ten different ways to talk to their kids.
It also focuses on your role as an adult and the role you play in allowing your child to become self-sufficient and productive. At the end of the day, this is a great guide on how to communicate with autistic kids for more meaningful exchanges.
- First-hand experience
- Written by a knowledgeable person
- Provides actionable intel
- Helps increase communication
- Lots of it is just common sense
7. How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger’s
If you are worried about how successful and meaningful your child’s life will be due to issues with autism, this book about teaching your kids valuable life skills to help them become self-sufficient and independent is definitely worth the read.
Jennifer McIlwee Myers is the author of this particular book, someone else we feel is reasonable and trustworthy, as her knowledge comes from her early childhood, from growing up with a brother on the spectrum, and constantly being worried about him and how successful he will be in his life.
The fact of the matter is that children with autism often have serious issues learning basic life skills, with communication, problem solving, reasonable thought, and problem de-escalation being at the forefront. Here, you get an in-depth guide on how to teach your child all of those relevant life skills so that they stand the best chance at success in life as humanly possible.
Some of the things that you will learn how to teach your child here is how to choose the right attire and clothing, how to be polite, how to perform household and domestic tasks, how to be healthy, how to develop good habits, and more.
- A useful guide
- Written by someone with firsthand experience
- Helps you teach your kids
- Allows children on the spectrum to become more independent
- May be a bit too straightforward and blunt for some
What Is ABA?
Before we end this review and share with you our final recommendation, allow us to talk a bit about what ABA is in order to help you make a more informed purchase decision.
After all, it is the method presented in some of the best books about autism we reviewed above.
As mentioned, ABA stands for applied behavior analysis.
We can’t discuss all the complexities of this approach, but in a nutshell, it is a method that seeks to reinforce certain habits, behaviors, and life skills.
That can be done by using three steps: A-B-C. A stands for antecedent, B for behavior, and C for consequence.
The antecedent is the event that triggers the behavior. It happens before the event.
It can come in the form of a verbal request, a physical object within the immediate environment, or something else.
Meanwhile, the behavior is the reaction of the child to the antecedent.
Regardless if it is positive or negative, this behavior will then be reinforced by a consequence.
Of course, the child can expect a positive consequence with positive behavior and a negative consequence to negative behavior.
Honestly, this method works and remains one of the most commonly applied for children with autism and related developmental disabilities.
The problem, though, is the adults who underwent ABA when they were younger pointed out a negative aspect of the approach.
That ABA is geared towards training those with autism to function as a non-autistic rather than promote neurodiversity.
In the end, it will be up to the parent or the person with autism (if they can already decide for themselves) to determine whether ABA is fit for them or not.
Our Final Recommendations
We have enjoyed reading all of the selections we have featured in our lineup of the best books on autism.
That said, if we are only going to recommend one of them, then that would be An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn by Sally Rogers Ph.D., Geraldine Dawson Ph.D., and Laurie Vismara Ph.D..
That’s because this book goes beyond just sharing experiences. It actually provides practical value through the actionable steps shared within the book.
Even those who don’t really follow the ABA approach can take these methods and adjust them according to their specific needs and preferences.
Those who are simply looking to understand better what those with autism go through can check out The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida (Translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell) instead.
It is a quick and interesting read. Just keep in mind that Higashida doesn’t speak for every autistic person, then you’ll be fine.
Related: Best Toys for Toddler With Autism