Books about autism with well-developed autistic characters written by authors who have been autism caregivers give a deep insight into what it means to live with and care for autistic people. But books by autistic authors that draw from their life’s experiences lend an unparalleled authenticity to the characters. Stories of unapologetic autistic people living their lives and discovering their true selves build compassion and empathy among neurotypical readers.
On the occasion of National Author’s Day on November 01, we will talk about some prolific autistic authors and their books that celebrate neurodiversity with powerful stories.
Nayan, a 10-year-old autistic boy from Attingal, Thiruvananthapuram, surprised everyone when he released his book at the age of seven in 2017.
He was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Despite his pervasive developmental disorder and speech impairment, he started picking up words by the time he turned four. Nayan can now understand multiple languages, including Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, English, and Arabic.
His book, Journey of My Sou,l is a collection of 10 poems, five visions, and over 20 short articles written by Nayan. He goes on to show how autism is no hinderance to intelligence and creativity.
Blogger at Musings of an Aspie and one of the bestselling autistic authors Cynthia Kim was diagnosed with autism much later in life. At 42 years of age to be precise. What followed was a year filled with extensive research on everything ASD and how it affected her life. She started recording her discoveries in her blog and went on to write bestselling books ‘I Think I Might Be Autistic’ and ‘Nerdy, Shy, And Socially Inappropriate.’
Her first book, ‘I Think I Might Be Autistic,’ is a guide to autism diagnosis and self-discovery for adults. This book was aimed at helping thousands of ‘weird,’ ‘quirky,’ ‘geeky,’ ‘shy’ adults, just like her. Adults who always felt different and found it challenging to fit into the societal boxes of ‘normal.’ It is a collection of information, suggestions, valuable insights, practical tips, and important resources that helped her cope with the emotional aspects of a late diagnosis.
In ‘Nerdy, Shy, And Socially Inappropriate,’ Cynthia has shared the quirks of living with ASD in a deeply personal, honest, and witty guide. She skilfully explains how receiving a diagnosis helped her change the narrative of her life, from being labelled shy, nerdy, and awkward as a child to finally being able to piece together the previously (largely) inexplicable world. Her account of what it means to live with autism is packed with helpful info and personal anecdotes that answer the many important ‘whys’ of ASD.
Elle McNicoll is an award-winning and bestselling children’s book writer from Scotland. An autistic person herself, Elle has always been an outspoken advocate for the need for better representation of autism spectrum disorder in print media.
Her debut book, ‘A Kind of Spark,’ follows the adventures of an 11-year-old autistic girl Addie, determined to organise a memorial commemorating the victims of the infamous witch trials that took place in her hometown in Scotland. It won the prestigious Blue Peter Book Award and the Overall Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, as well as Blackwell’s Book of 2020.
‘Show Us Who You Are,’ her second book has neurodivergent central characters and a strong friendship at heart. It was received well by the readers and was declared Blackwell’s Book of the Month. It was also one of The Bookseller’s Best Books of 2021.
One of the persons with an autism spectrum disorder to record her life’s experiences living with autism, Temple Grandin, is a bestselling author, an animal behaviourist, and scientist. She is also an immensely vocal autism spokesperson. Grandin was never formally diagnosed in her early childhood. The only diagnosis she and her family could obtain was ‘brain damage.’ It wasn’t until much later (in 2010, when she was 63 years old!) that her diagnosis was confirmed as autism. However, during her mid-teens, her mother found an autistic symptoms checklist that hinted towards an autism diagnosis.
Her autobiography titled ‘Thinking In Pictures – My Life With Autism’ describes her experiences with visual thinking. At the time of publishing in 1995, this book was an unprecedented look into autism, providing a unique dual perspective of both a scientist and an autistic individual.
‘Different …Not Less,’ another book by Grandin documents the success stories of 14 individuals over 50 years of age who were never formally diagnosed with autism. It talks about various delicate subjects like being successfully employed, being married, raising kids, and having fulfilling relationships.
Born in Kimitsu, Japan, Naoki Higashida was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of five. A non-verbal autistic person, Naoki learned how to communicate using alphabet grids and started writing short stories and poems soon after. His first book, ‘The Reason I Jump’ was published in 2007 and several more, including essays, children’s books, picture books, collection of poems etc., have been published in Japan since.
Naoki wrote ‘The Reason I Jump’ – his autobiographical account at thirteen years of age. The English translation of his book was released in 2013, and since then, it has been translated into 30 different languages. A documentary by the same title that features many successful people with autism was also released and featured in the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2020.