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A Library Tool Kit for Neurodivergent Kids

Meredith Sires, Children's Librarian, Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library,
Collage of books for neurodivergent children

If you're the parent or caregiver of a neurodivergent child, you're probably very familiar with the search for the right tools. The right tools for school, the right tools for bathtime, the right tools for a birthday party, etc., etc., etc.

Almost everywhere you go requires a little extra prep because differently wired brains have different needs. As both a librarian and a parent who needs to take those steps myself, I know the library is no exception. In fact, as a space that can be a little unpredictable, bright, and even loud at times, your local library branch might be particularly tricky to navigate. To help, I wanted to share some ways you and your kids can fill a library toolkit.

  • Adjustable Text, Interactive Features, and Vox Books: Looking to support a young neurodivergent reader? Libby and hoopla both offer dyslexia-friendly fonts on all e-books. Read-along books can also engage readers with ADHD who like to simultaneously follow along with the audio version and written texts. You can also do this with print books by checking out a Vox book with a built-in speaker—collections of these at every library—or borrowing an e-audiobook to stream while reading a hard copy of the same book. For assigned reading, Libby also allows readers to highlight and bookmark text, a handy technique for helping with retention because the text becomes more interactive.
  • Librarian Recommendations With Special Interests in Mind: Many autistic children and children with ADHD have special interests that light them up. As librarians, we are well equipped and excited to translate that desire to know as much as possible about Pixar characters, dinosaurs, or whatever it is into a curated reading list just for them! On the flip side, if there are certain topics or content your child would want to avoid encountering in a book, we can also keep those sensitivities in mind. These requests can take place in person, over the phone, or online through our Book Bundles To Go service, where you fill out a form to tell us about your reader, and a librarian selects a personalized bundle of five books to place on hold for you.
  • Children's Books With Neurodivergent Representation: Neurodivergence, whether it is in the form of autism, ADHD, sensory processing issues, or some other presentation, comes with challenges but also certain strengths. Seeing nuanced characters with these qualities reflected on the page can help neurodivergent and neurotypical readers gain more compassion and appreciation for what it means to live inside a differently wired brain—which I know from experience can be very hard to explain! If you have a young person who could use the solidarity and affirmation of richly drawn fictional neurodivergent figures, start with the booklist below, featuring picture books, independent readers, graphic novels, and chapter books.

Children's Books With Neurodiverse Characters

Book cover of Henry, like always
Henry, Like Always
Bailey, Jenn

Book cover for Honestly Elliott
Honestly Elliott
McDunn, Gillian

Book cover of Good different
Good Different
Kuyatt, Meg Eden

Book cover of My brain is magic : a sensory-seeking celebration
My Brain is Magic: A Sensory-seeking Celebration
Sooful, Prasha

Book cover of Aaron Slater, illustrator
Aaron Slater, Illustrator
Beaty, Andrea

Book cover of The unstoppable Jamie
The Unstoppable Jamie
Givens, Joy

Book cover of Brilliant Bea
Brilliant Bea
Rudolph, Shaina

Book cover of A day with no words
A Day With No Words
Hammond, Tiffany

Book cover of A kind of spark
A Kind of Spark
McNicoll, Elle

Book cover for I Talk Like a River
I Talk Like a River
Scott, Jordan