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Check out Our Recommendations for the Best TV Shows, Movies and Books that Positively Portray Autism

Check out Our Recommendations for the Best TV Shows, Movies and Books that Positively Portray Autism

By Fraser Experts • autism, autism acceptance, autism spectrum, neurodiversity, neurodivergent • April 08, 2021

Autism awareness and acceptance is increasing throughout the world. More people are learning that autism is a spectrum, and every individual with autism is different. They are also beginning to understand that having a neurological difference, like autism, makes people unique, and this difference isn’t inherently bad.

We know representation matters. Having TV shows, movies and books with complex and interesting characters with autism is important. You want your child to see characters that look and act like him, her or them. That helps reinforce the idea that being different is okay, and there is nothing wrong with them. It also helps the rest of the world understand and learn more about what it is like to live with autism.

We reached out to some of our Fraser experts to get their recommendations for some of the best TV shows, movies and books that positively portray characters or people with autism. We believe it’s important that actors and actresses with autism portray characters with autism, which factored into our selection process. We encourage you to share these recommendations with your children, friends and family.

Fraser has also partnered with Bookshop.org, which is an online bookseller that supports independent bookstores. Bookshop contributes a portion of all their sales to independent bookstores throughout the U.S. By purchasing one of these books from the Fraser – Minnesota page on Bookshop, we receive 10% of every sale.

“Loop” – (Short film)

Two kids at canoe camp find themselves adrift on a lake, unable to move forward until they find a new way to connect and see the world through each other’s eyes. This film breaks new ground by featuring Pixar’s first character with autism, who is a nonvocal communicator. The character is voiced by an actress with autism who is nonvocal. (Available on Disney+ as of 4/1/2021.)

“Everything's Gonna Be Okay” – TV show

After their father’s untimely death, Nicholas and his two half-sisters must cope with a devastating loss and the realization Nicholas will have to rise to the occasion and hold it all together. One of the half-sisters, Matilda, is played by Kayla Cromer, an actress on the autism spectrum, which is a disability she shares with the character she portrays. (TV show available on Freeform from 2020-present.) 

“Life, Animated” – (Documentary)

This is a documentary about Owen Suskind’s life on the autism spectrum. Owen didn’t communicate vocally after the age of 3, until he found new ways to communicate through the Disney movies that he loved. (Available on Hulu as of 4/1/2021.)

“Autism In Love” – (Documentary)

This is a documentary about four adults on the autism spectrum, as they search for and manage romantic relationships. (Available to rent at some online retailers.)

Best Books for Kids

“All My Stripes” by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer (ages 4-8)

Zane the zebra learns about his stripes and how each one, including his “autism stripe,” makes him who he is.

“Uniquely Wired” by Julia Cook (ages 5-8)

Zak has autism. He describes his love of watches and how he feels his senses a little differently than other kids. This is a good book for children with autism to share with friends, siblings or teachers.

“Cameron Goes to School” by Sheletta Bundidge and Lily Cole

This story features Cameron, a young African-American girl with autism, who is getting ready to attend kindergarten. This story follows how she and her family get ready for her transition.

“Come Meet Drayden” by Dana Young Askew

This book was written by Dana and her children. Her son Drayden has autism. In the book, his siblings share what it’s like to have a sibling with autism.

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete (6-10)

The book is written by actress Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter Ryan. It’s about a boy who has autism, like Holly’s son. Charlie’s big sister says Charlie’s “brain works in a special way,” and then she explains all the wonderful ways he is different.

Nathan’s Autism Spectrum Superpowers by Lori Yarborough (6-18)

The book is about Nathan, and he explains how his autism superpowers affect him and how his friends and family can help him. This was written to help families with children on the spectrum by a mom who is a physical therapist.

Best Books for Teens and Adults

“The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida 

Naoki Higashida, a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, answers questions about how his mind works and why he does things like jump or flap his hands.

“Fall Down 7 Times Get up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism” by Naoki Higashida

This book is a follow-up to “The Reason I Jump,” which Naoki wrote when he was a 13-year-old boy with autism and a nonvocal communicator. This book is from his perspective as a young man, as he navigates family relationships, the difficulties of speech and travel. Naoki hopes to give people a better understanding of what it’s like to live with autism.

“Viral Nation” by Shaunta Grimes

This is the first book in a series featuring Clover Donovan, a brilliant sixteen-year-old girl with autism. A virus has wiped out much of the world’s population. The Company brought a life-saving vaccine back from the future, and they now control food and supplies and try to prevent future crimes from occurring. Clover wants to study at the Waverly-Stead Academy, and her brother West has done everything he can to help. But when she refused to give up her service dog, she finds herself drafted into the Time Mariners, a Company team that gathers news about the future.

 “M Is for Autism” by The Students of Limpsfield Grange School and Vicky Martin

This is a novel written by the students of Limpsfield Grange, a school for girls who are on the autism spectrum. It’s told from the perspective of M, a teenage girl with autism. The book “draws on real-life experiences to create a heartfelt and humorous novel that captures the highs and lows of being different in a world of normal.”

“All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism” Edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, E. Ashkenazy & Morenike Giwa Onaiwu

The book is a collection of poetry, essays, fiction, drawings, photography and paintings, all collected from Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) with autism from 7 different countries. It features 61 writers and artists and speaking on issues of marginality, intersectionality and liberation.

"Thinking in Pictures" by Temple Grandin

In 1995, Dr. Temple Grandin published this book, which was a groundbreaking look at autism from the perspective of Grandin, a woman with autism and a scientist. For the new edition, Grandin included new criteria, updated tips and information about working children and teens with autism.

“Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” by Dr. Barry M. Prizant
The book explains why your child might be having behaviors and how to address these effectively. The book teaches strategies for dealing with certain behaviors and how to encourage emotional and cognitive development.

“An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn” by Sally J. Rogers, Ph.D.; Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. and Laurie A. Vismara, Ph.D. 

The book provides everyday strategies for your young child with autism. It’s used in the Fraser Early Beginnings program.