Top Five Books to Educate Yourself on Autism

By Tiffany “TJ” Joseph, Bened Life Neurodiversity & Disability Specialist

I often hear from people who are new to the autism community, as well as people who have been immersed in it, that they want to know which books I find to have the highest educational value on the topic. Well, I always keep this running list in my head.

I have read dozens of books about autism and/or by Autistic authors. What makes these top five books stand out for me is that they get to what I feel is the heart of Autistic traits being necessary and reasonable while explaining it in a way that anyone would be able to understand, even if you’re brand-new to the world of autism and neurodiversity.

Here are my top five books for learning about autism and exploring neurodiversity advocacy.

I Will Die on This Hill - Meghan Ashburn, Jules Edwards 

What I love about this book is that it is written from dueling perspectives, backed up by several others from the community with various intersecting identities. One co-author, Meghan, is a mom of two Autistic kids. The other co-author, Jules, is an Autistic person as well as a parent to Autistic children.

This book highlights various sides and perspectives of autism while being empathetic to all of those involved. You’ll gain insight and solutions not only from the co-authors but also the featured writers and resources that are provided in each chapter. Please, read this book several times!

Uniquely Human (2nd ed.) - Barry Prizant

When I first learned that my Aspergers had another name – autism – I decided to learn as much as I could about myself and autism in general. This book gave me such relief about my traits. My relief came from how it speaks about stimming always having a good reason, sensory overload, so-called “behaviors,” and everything else I had felt ashamed about previously.

Even as an Autistic person reading a book about autism by a non-autistic person, I learned so much not only about myself, but also my own Autistic children and students. I recommend it for every parent, caregiver, and professional working with anyone who has a neurodivergent condition.

Beyond Behaviors - Mona Dela Hooke 

Yet another amazing book that taught me about myself and other Autistic people even though the author is not Autistic themself. When we are taught that so-called behaviors have a story and reason behind them that makes complete sense, we then think we should look for reasons and “solutions.”

Trying to “fix” behaviors is a really quick way to lose the trust of the person we are trying to help. Not to mention, it won’t be effective or long-lasting anyway. The effects will be temporary.

This dynamic is the crux of this book. But even greater inside of it is how to implement effective solutions that focus on neurobiology instead, in many settings. A perfect book for professionals and caregivers.

Neurotribes - Steve Silberman

Truly learning about something like autism requires digging into the history of its diagnosis, stigma, and treatment modalities.

Neurotribes goes way back into the history of how autism even became a disorder recognized by the mental health and medical fields of the past. It then goes in-depth throughout the years up until today. It’s very interesting and enlightening on how we got here, so to speak.

The Leaders Around Me - Multiple authors, edited by Edlyn Peña

The Leaders Around Me is one of my very favorite books on autism of all time! This book has the sacred words of nonspeaking Autistic people of all ages and backgrounds. After being kept away from communication and education access, the authors all gained access to communication at different times in their lives. Therefore, they have many different perspectives on autism and what is needed to better the community writ large, especially for those amongst us who can’t use speech to communicate reliably.

Too often, I hear parents wondering what their nonspeaking child is experiencing, feeling, or living. And rightfully they may think or say that a person who can speak doesn’t understand. But there is no excuse to act like nonspeaking people of all disabilities aren’t communicating their experiences and ideas enough for parents to get a glimpse.

Not only that, but we need to consider: How can we help everyone in our community if we aren’t even listening to all perspectives? This book is a great start to hear from those who don’t use speech as a main source of communication. 

Once finished with this book, please don’t stop reading the words of those most like your students or loved ones.


About the author:

TJ is an Autistic adult working in “accessible education” with teen and young adult Autistic non-speakers. She herself is Hard of Hearing and utilizes many ways to communicate including ASL, mouth words, and high-tech AAC (augmentative and alternative communication). Their passion in the disability space is communication and education rights for people of all disabilities. Find TJ on social media at Nigh Functioning Autism.


Books by neurodivergent writers recommended by Bened Life Neurodiversity Specialists:

We Are Not Broken, Eric Garcia

A Kind of Spark, Elle McNicoll

Different, Not Less, Chloé Hayden

Sincerely, Your Autistic Child, Emily Paige Ballou, Sharon daVanport, Morénike Giwa Onaiwu eds.


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