Top Ten Books for Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum

In honor of autism awareness month this month, this is the first in a series of posts to improve autism awareness and build greater resources for affected families on this website.

Here in my practice, one of my specialties is working with anxiety, depression, and behavior problems in children, adolescents, and adults on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum.  When the diagnosis is first made, many parents feel overwhelmed and unsure where to turn for help.

One great resource for families struggling with a new or existing diagnosis for their child is the multitude of quality books out there addressing the unique challenges of children with high functioning autism and Asperger's disorder.

Here is a list of my personal top ten favorites for parents and kids.

Complete Guide Aspergers by Attwood cover

Complete Guide Aspergers by Attwood cover

Books for Parents

1. The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome - Tony Attwood, Ph.D. - For those not familiar with Attwood's work, he is an Australian psychologist who has focused his career on understanding and treating Asperger's Disorder and high functioning autism.  This is his quintessential book that covers a wide range of topics related to having a child on the autism spectrum.

2. Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals – Tony Attwood, Ph.D. - Although there is some overlap with the first book on the list, this is another great resource for parents struggling with a child with high functioning autism/Asperger's disorder with many practical tips.

3. A Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome & High Functioning Autism: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive – Sally Ozonoff, Ph.D., Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., and James McPartland - Written by a trio of experts in the field, this is another great resource for helpful, down-to-earth tips for working with your child.

4. Asperger Syndrome and Young Children: Building Skills for the Real World - Teresa Bolick, Ph.D. - This book is targeted specifically toward parents of children between the ages of 3 and 7.  I like it because it provides very concrete information on how children on the spectrum look different from their typically developing peers and has specific, practical, age-appropriate strategies for parents to use to address those differences.  Although it was published in 2004, the strategies are still relevant today.  Unfortunately, it is no longer in print in hard copy, but it can be found used or purchased in an electronic version.

5.  Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Helping Preteens and Teens Get Ready for the Real World – Teresa Bolick, Ph.D. - By the same author as #4, this is a great resource for parents of older children who are looking for specific strategies for addressing issues unique to teens.

Out of Sync Child Cover

Out of Sync Child Cover

6. The Out-Of-Sync Child - Carol Kranowitz - Although this book is not specifically about autism, I find that it is one of my top recommended books to parents of children on the autism spectrum.  This book talks about sensory issues in great detail and provides a wealth of suggestions for addressing different sensory sensitivities at home.  Since sensory issues are often a pervasive problem for kids on the spectrum, many families find this book to be particularly useful. 


Books for Kids

Many parents find that books are a great way to help their child understand their diagnosis and their own unique patterns of strength and weakness.  There are many great books out there written specifically for kids, but these are a few of my personal favorites.

7. What It Is to Be Me!: An Asperger Kid Book - Angela Wine - Geared toward younger children, this is a short but useful illustrated book that helps explain the diagnosis in easy-to-understand terms.

8. Can I Tell You About Asperger Syndrome?  A Guide for Friends and Family- Jude Welton - This is a wonderful book targeted toward children ages 7 to 15, presenting information on autism spectrum disorders in a clear, easy-to-understand format.  I find that it is also useful for starting discussions with the child about whether to tell others about the diagnosis and how to tell them when it's time.

Freaks Geeks and Asperger Syndrome Cover

Freaks Geeks and Asperger Syndrome Cover

9.  Freaks, Geeks, & Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence - Luke Jackson - The quintessential guide to autism spectrum disorders for high-functioning teenagers.  Written by a teenage boy who was struggling with Asperger Syndrome, it is highly informative and accessible to teenagers with similar struggles.

10. All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome - Kathy Hoopmann - A light-hearted, funny, and non-threatening approach to talking about Asperger's.

Given the current state of the field, I feel it's important to give a small disclaimer here.  As the DSM-5 is released next month and begins to be implemented over the next 1 to 2 years, the terminology for high functioning autism and Asperger's disorder will be undergoing some major shifts.  The titles of these books will likely begin to appear obsolete in the very near future.  The term "Asperger's disorder" or "Asperger's syndrome" will likely no longer exist as a diagnosis, neither will "Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)."

Although certain terms will fall out of official use and be replaced with a broader definition of autism, I think that the concepts presented in these books will continue to be useful to families struggling with autism spectrum disorder, regardless of the specific label attached.