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November 17, 2017

Books to Help With Students on the Autism Spectrum

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    It is hard for me to imagine any classroom without a student who is on the autism spectrum. I guess they may be out there but honestly, I’m glad I’ve never had one. My students on the spectrum bring so much life and personality to my classroom; they keep things fresh and interesting. And because I am constantly reading professional development books and having conversations about best practices, I have also become a better teacher for their presence.

    One of my new go-to books when I need support and confirmation that I’m on the right track, or advice and directions because I’m completely lost is Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Inclusive Classroom: How to Reach and Teach Students with ASD by Barbara Boroson.


    Boroson has put together a book that seemingly covers it all (it’s very inclusive!), but I want to focus and share my takeaways from chapter two, The Power of Positivity. An important part of this chapter appears on page 34:

    “The ability to look for and recognize progress in unusual places will go a long way toward helping you sustain yourself through your journey with students on the spectrum. … So as you work to adapt your program to address the needs of these students, you will also need to adapt your idea of progress.”

    Truer words have never been written about working with, not just kids on the spectrum, but all kids. I know each teacher works towards those top-down expectations from the state, the district, and down to the administration, but it is so important to keep our students at the forefront of our work. Then we feel success with even the tiniest hint of progress that our students make. Celebrate these successes with your students and their families.

    On page 43 Boroson writes, “Consider the difference between tolerance and acceptance.” This profound statement really stuck with me and has influenced me in several decisions. I want all my students to feel accepted and not just tolerated.

    There are three areas that students on the spectrum typically experience struggles: intense interest, communication, and socialization. Rather than focus on the challenges in these areas, Boroson has found ways to turn them into strengths. Capitalizing on a child's intense interest in time, for instance, could become a gift when you assign them as  timekeeper to keep you on schedule. Likewise, Boroson has creative suggestions for children struggling in other areas.

    Other resources that I find myself sharing with regularity are books that are written for student consumption. These books are usually very well researched in the traits, characteristics, and behaviors of students on the spectrum. The stories often help people connect, expect, and reflect when dealing with these individuals. If someone is new to the world of the autism spectrum disorder, these books are a great starting point for their journey.

    Be a Friend by Salina Yoon wasn’t written for the students in the autism community but with since Dennis (Mime Boy) struggles with communication and socialization, it isn’t hard to see how readers made the leap and started recommending it. The joy of the book comes when the reader meets the character Joy, and she communicates with Dennis in unconventional, yet wonderful ways. Yoon really hits inclusivity out of the park with this book. I suggest it as a read-aloud for Pre-K through second grade, but I know many upper-grade teachers that love this book too!

    This book is a Guided Reading Level J.


    Cynthia Lord did a wonderful job in Rules for which she won the Newberry Award. I adore how this book takes the idea of individuals on the spectrum and turns it around to where the neurotypical (page 41 in Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Inclusive Classroom) characters begin to wonder, “What is normal?”. The inclusivity in the book makes it humorous and absolutely heartwarming! I recommend it as a read-aloud for third through sixth grades.

    This book is currently available in the Scholastic Book Club and is a Guided Reading Level R.

    I can’t list books with characters on the spectrum and not mention Caitlyn from Kathryn Erskine’s book, Mockingbird. I cannot recommend this book enough. Caitlyn has what used to be diagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome (which now officially falls on the spectrum of autism). The story is gripping and Caitlyn’s idiosyncrasies will have you both laughing out loud and crying tears of pain at the exact same time. I think this is a fantastic read-aloud for students fifth through eighth grades.

    This book is a Guided Reading Level W.


    Finally, if you haven’t read the book, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson, then let me suggest it. I read it during the summer of 2016 and I still haven’t forgotten this wonderfully funny and heartbreaking story and neither has my daughter who read it after me. There are three main characters in this amazing tale: Topher, Steve, and Brand, and they take turns telling the narrative. I love all three characters with equal passion but for different reasons. However, when pressed, Steve rises as my favorite. It is never stated in the book that Steve has a spectrum disorder but it was relatively clear that he does, and more importantly, that he is able to successfully navigate school with two close friends. Steve is a wonderful character in a truly outstanding book. I recommend it as a read-aloud for eighth graders and up, with caution just because of one scene that involves minors buying alcohol.

    This book is currently available in the Scholastic Book Club and is a Guided Reading Level V.

    Check out these five great resources, no matter where you are on your journey with students on the spectrum.

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

    I can’t wait to see you next time!

    It is hard for me to imagine any classroom without a student who is on the autism spectrum. I guess they may be out there but honestly, I’m glad I’ve never had one. My students on the spectrum bring so much life and personality to my classroom; they keep things fresh and interesting. And because I am constantly reading professional development books and having conversations about best practices, I have also become a better teacher for their presence.

    One of my new go-to books when I need support and confirmation that I’m on the right track, or advice and directions because I’m completely lost is Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Inclusive Classroom: How to Reach and Teach Students with ASD by Barbara Boroson.


    Boroson has put together a book that seemingly covers it all (it’s very inclusive!), but I want to focus and share my takeaways from chapter two, The Power of Positivity. An important part of this chapter appears on page 34:

    “The ability to look for and recognize progress in unusual places will go a long way toward helping you sustain yourself through your journey with students on the spectrum. … So as you work to adapt your program to address the needs of these students, you will also need to adapt your idea of progress.”

    Truer words have never been written about working with, not just kids on the spectrum, but all kids. I know each teacher works towards those top-down expectations from the state, the district, and down to the administration, but it is so important to keep our students at the forefront of our work. Then we feel success with even the tiniest hint of progress that our students make. Celebrate these successes with your students and their families.

    On page 43 Boroson writes, “Consider the difference between tolerance and acceptance.” This profound statement really stuck with me and has influenced me in several decisions. I want all my students to feel accepted and not just tolerated.

    There are three areas that students on the spectrum typically experience struggles: intense interest, communication, and socialization. Rather than focus on the challenges in these areas, Boroson has found ways to turn them into strengths. Capitalizing on a child's intense interest in time, for instance, could become a gift when you assign them as  timekeeper to keep you on schedule. Likewise, Boroson has creative suggestions for children struggling in other areas.

    Other resources that I find myself sharing with regularity are books that are written for student consumption. These books are usually very well researched in the traits, characteristics, and behaviors of students on the spectrum. The stories often help people connect, expect, and reflect when dealing with these individuals. If someone is new to the world of the autism spectrum disorder, these books are a great starting point for their journey.

    Be a Friend by Salina Yoon wasn’t written for the students in the autism community but with since Dennis (Mime Boy) struggles with communication and socialization, it isn’t hard to see how readers made the leap and started recommending it. The joy of the book comes when the reader meets the character Joy, and she communicates with Dennis in unconventional, yet wonderful ways. Yoon really hits inclusivity out of the park with this book. I suggest it as a read-aloud for Pre-K through second grade, but I know many upper-grade teachers that love this book too!

    This book is a Guided Reading Level J.


    Cynthia Lord did a wonderful job in Rules for which she won the Newberry Award. I adore how this book takes the idea of individuals on the spectrum and turns it around to where the neurotypical (page 41 in Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Inclusive Classroom) characters begin to wonder, “What is normal?”. The inclusivity in the book makes it humorous and absolutely heartwarming! I recommend it as a read-aloud for third through sixth grades.

    This book is currently available in the Scholastic Book Club and is a Guided Reading Level R.

    I can’t list books with characters on the spectrum and not mention Caitlyn from Kathryn Erskine’s book, Mockingbird. I cannot recommend this book enough. Caitlyn has what used to be diagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome (which now officially falls on the spectrum of autism). The story is gripping and Caitlyn’s idiosyncrasies will have you both laughing out loud and crying tears of pain at the exact same time. I think this is a fantastic read-aloud for students fifth through eighth grades.

    This book is a Guided Reading Level W.


    Finally, if you haven’t read the book, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson, then let me suggest it. I read it during the summer of 2016 and I still haven’t forgotten this wonderfully funny and heartbreaking story and neither has my daughter who read it after me. There are three main characters in this amazing tale: Topher, Steve, and Brand, and they take turns telling the narrative. I love all three characters with equal passion but for different reasons. However, when pressed, Steve rises as my favorite. It is never stated in the book that Steve has a spectrum disorder but it was relatively clear that he does, and more importantly, that he is able to successfully navigate school with two close friends. Steve is a wonderful character in a truly outstanding book. I recommend it as a read-aloud for eighth graders and up, with caution just because of one scene that involves minors buying alcohol.

    This book is currently available in the Scholastic Book Club and is a Guided Reading Level V.

    Check out these five great resources, no matter where you are on your journey with students on the spectrum.

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

    I can’t wait to see you next time!

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