Autism for Siblings

The books in this section speak to the siblings of autistic children. They celebrate sibling relationships, validate feelings and frustrations common to the siblings of autistic kids, and support siblings’ strategies for coping with judgment or fear of judgment from others. A note about language: I have included under the “Representation” section of each book review whether and how the author identifies a character as autistic. Many people in the autism community prefer identity-first language (i.e., autistic person) rather than person-first language (i.e., person with autism). However, many other people prefer the opposite; it’s a very personal choice. In the past, person-first language has been the standard, and this is reflected in many books on autism, but this standard has shifted in the past couple of years as the culture has shifted toward celebrating disability as an identity.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book is great for the siblings of autistic girls, who are very underrepresented in children’s literature about autism. It validates the challenges of having an autistic sibling while highlighting love and connection between the siblings. It particularly supports conversations about what to do if a friend rejects an autistic sibling and presents a model of what inclusive play might look like. The book explicitly states that Leah is “autistic.”
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book positions the siblings of autistic children as experts in their siblings’ preferences and interests (as many siblings are), and it reminds the reader that their sibling’s happiness and well-being is more important than what other people might be thinking. It’s best for the siblings of non-speaking or minimally verbal autistic children.
Age range: 1st grade through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book is ideal to read with children who have autistic siblings and who can sit through a longer, wordier book. It celebrates positive aspects of the siblings’ relationship and builds empathy and understanding for a sibling’s experience while validating some of the very real challenges that can come with having an autistic brother or sister. For children who have ever asked, “What about me?” when their sibling goes to therapy and gets to play games, or when family decisions are made based on an autistic sibling’s needs, this book validates these experiences and provides some useful coping strategies.

My Brother Otto

Written by Meg Raby
Illustrated by Elisa Pallmer
Age range: Preschool through kindergarten.
Recommended for: This book is a cute, upbeat introduction to the idea that although children might be different in many ways, they all want “to play, learn, have friends, and be loved.” It’s ideal for young, non-autistic children with a non-speaking or minimally verbal autistic sibling. This book never explicitly labels Otto as autistic, so it’s a good fit for a family that has not yet talked with their children about diagnoses, or for a family with a child who has some autistic features but a different diagnosis.
Age range: Kindergarten through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book is a very sweet, heart-warming read for a non-autistic child with an autistic sibling. The book validates the challenges of having an autistic (or otherwise neurodiverse, disabled, etc.) sibling while showing the depth and importance of the siblings’ love for one another. This book is probably best for children who are both able to recognize each other’s feelings to some extent and to engage in reciprocal affection and/or caretaking behaviors.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book, written by an autistic author, is a celebration of parallel play and perspective taking, and it is excellent for the peers or siblings of autistic children who are minimally verbal and/or who prefer parallel play (i.e., playing side-by-side but independently) to cooperative play. This story models non-patronizing, inclusive play and encourages kids to learn to play in ways that are fun for everyone.