Special Needs Books

Skip to: Emotional and Mental HealthLearning Disabilities, Learning Differences, Learning DifficultiesReading DifficultiesSpeech and Language ImpairmentsADD, ADHD, and HyperactivityAutismBlindness and Visual ImpairmentCerebral PalsyDeafness and Hearing ImpairmentDown SyndromeDyslexiaJuvenile Rheumatoid ArthritisMuscular DystrophyObsessive-Compulsive DisorderPhysical ChallengesSpina BifidaTourette Syndrome

General: Special Needs

  • Extraordinary People with Disabilities by Deborah Kent
    Profiles several dozen people throughout history with various physical or mental disabilities. Additional articles provide historical background on the disability rights movement.
  • Kids Explore the Gifts of Children with Special Needs by W.W.Y.W.
    Children in a writing workshop describe the lives of ten young children with special needs, including a boy with fetal alcohol syndrome, a girl with cerebral palsy, and a boy with dyslexia.
  • Extraordinary Friends by Fred Rogers
    Focuses on people who are different, who might use equipment such as wheelchairs or special computers, who are more like you than you might think, and suggests ways to interact with them.
  • Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability by Pat Thomas
    An introduction to the subject of disability for young children.
  • Tiger’s Fall by Molly Bang
    After eleven-year-old Lupe is partially paralyzed in an accident in her Mexican village, other people with disabilities help her realize that her life can have real purpose.

Emotional and Mental Health

  • Ben, King of the River   by David Gifaldi
    Chad experiences a range of emotions when he goes camping with his parents and his five-year-old mentally disabled brother Ben, who has many developmental problems.  A picture book
  • Way to Go, Alex!   by Robin Pulver
    Carly learns a lot about Alex, her mentally disabled older brother, as he trains for and competes in the Special Olympics.   Includes a note from the Special Olympics.   A picture book
  • What’s Wrong with Timmy?   by Maria Shriver
    Making friends with a mentally handicapped boy helps Kate learn that the two of them have a lot in common.   A picture book.

Learning Disabilities, Learning Differences, Learning Difficulties

  •  Think about Having a Learning Disability   by Margaret Flynn
    Describes what it is like to have a learning disability and how different people handle the challenges these difficulties present.
  • The Don’t Give Up Kid and Learning Differences   by Jeanne Gehret
    As Alex becomes aware of his different learning style, he realizes his hero Thomas Edison had similar problems. Together they try new solutions until they succeed at their dream to create things that no one ever thought of before.
  • When Learning is Tough: Kids Talk about Their Learning Disabilities   by Cynthia Roby
    Children describe their learning disabilities, talents, learning techniques, and misconceptions associated with learning disabilities.
  • Just Kids: Visiting a Class for Children with Special Needs   by Ellen B. Senesi
    Second-grader Cindy is assigned to spend part of each day in the class for students with special needs, where she finds out that even though some kids may learn differently or have different abilities, they are all “just kids.”  Fiction.

Reading Difficulties

  • Once Upon a Time   by Niki Daly
    Sarie struggles when she reads aloud in class in her South African school, but then she and her friend Auntie Anna find a book about Cinderella in Auntie’s old car and begin to read together.  A picture book.
  • Marvin One Too Many   by Katherine Paterson
    Marvin cannot read, but he eventually learns how with some help from his father.   A beginning reader.
  • Thank You, Mr. Falker   by Patricia Polacco
    At first, Trisha loves school, but her difficulty learning to read makes her feel dumb, until she reaches the fifth grade and a new teacher helps her understand and overcome her problem.   A picture book.
  • The Best Fight   by Anne Schlieper
    Fifth-grader Jamie, who goes to a special class because he has difficulty reading, thinks he’s dumb until the school principal helps him realize that he also has many talents.  Fiction.

Speech and Language Impairments

  • Let’s Talk about Stuttering   by Susan Kent
    Discusses stuttering, the embarrassment it may cause, and acquiring self-esteem for those with this condition.
  • Ben Has Something to Say: A Story about Stuttering   by Laurie Lears
    In order to help a neglected dog which he sees at a junkyard, Ben, who stutters, begins to confront his fear of speaking.   A picture book.

ADD, ADHD, and Hyperactivity

  • Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key   by Jack Gantos
    To the constant disappointment of his mother and his teachers, Joey has trouble paying attention or controlling his mood swings when his prescription meds wear off and he starts getting worked up and acting wired. This is the first of several humorous books about Joey Pigza.  Fiction.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder   by Susan Dudley Gold
    Discusses the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of attention deficit disorder, as well as ways in which people live with it.
  • Parents Wanted   by George Harrar
    Twelve-year-old Andrew, who has ADD, is adopted by new parents after years of other foster homes and desperately hopes that he will not mess up the situation.  Fiction.
  • Waiting for Mr. Goose   by Laurie Lears
    Stephen, who has trouble sitting still and paying attention, surprises himself when he summons up the patience to catch and help an injured goose.  Includes a note to adults about children who have difficulty staying focused, including those with ADHD.  A picture book.
  • Help is on the Way: A Child’s Book About ADD   by Marc A.Nemiroff
    Explains the effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and how it can be handled.
  • Pay Attention, Slosh!   by Mark Smith
    Eight-year-old Josh hates being unable to concentrate or control himself, but with the help of his parents, his teacher, and a doctor, he learns to deal with his condition, known as ADHD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Fiction.
  • The A.D.D. Book for Kids   by Shelley and Sheila Kelly Rotner
    Text and photographs explain what it is like to live with A. D. D. or attention-deficit disorder.
  • Eddie, Enough!   by Debbie Zimmett
    Third-grader Eddie Minetti is always getting in trouble at school until his AD/HD is diagnosed and treated.  Fiction.


  •  Autism   by Carol Baldwin
    Teaches about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for autism. This book will help young people understand the challenges that autistic classmates face each day.
  • Looking After Lewis   by Lesley Ely
    When a new boy with autism joins their classroom, the children try to understand his world and to include him in theirs.  A picture book.
  • Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism   by Laurie Lears
    A young girl realizes how much she cares about her autistic brother when he gets lost at the park. A picture book.
  • Everything You Need to Know when a Brother or Sister is Autistic   by Marsha Sarah Rosenberg
    Describes what autism is, how it is diagnosed and treated, and ways that siblings of people with autism can find support.
  • Andy and His Yellow Frisbee   by Mary Thompson
    The new girl at school tries to befriend Andy, an autistic boy who spends every recess by himself, spinning a yellow Frisbee under the watchful eye of his older sister.  A picture book.

Blindness and Visual Impairment

  •  Mom’s Best Friend   by Sally Hobart Alexander
    Describes how a blind mother adjusts to getting a new dog guide.
  • The Sidewalk Patrol   by Larry Dane Brimner
    Gabby and her friends take time to move some bicycles so that their blind neighbor can walk on the sidewalk. A beginning reader.
  • Seeing Things My Way   by Alden Carter
    A second-grader describes how she and other students learn to use a variety of equipment and methods to cope with their visual impairments.
  • See You Tomorrow, Charles   by Miriam Cohen
    The first graders learn to accept the new boy, who is blind, as just like themselves.  A picture book.
  • Brian’s Bird   by Patricia Davis
    Eight-year-old Brian, who is blind, learns how to take care of his new parakeet and comes to realize that his older brother, while sometimes careless, is not so bad after all.  A picture book.
  • Looking Out for Sarah   by Glenna Lang
    Describes a day in the life of a seeing-eye dog, from going with his owner to the grocery store and post office, to visiting a class of school children, and playing ball. Also describes their three-hundred mile walk from Boston to New York.  A picture book.
  • Listen for the Bus: David’s Story   by Patricia McMahon
    A real-life look at David, who is blind, as he begins kindergarten.
  • The Secret Code   by Dana Rau
    Oscar, who is blind, teaches Lucy how to read his Braille book.  A beginning reader.
  • Some Kids are Blind   by Lola Schaefer
    Simple text and photographs describe children who are blind, their challenges and adaptations, and their similarities with others.
  • Living with Blindness   by Patsy Westcott
    Explains the condition of blindness, its possible causes, and how it affects the everyday lives of those who are dealing with it.
  • The Seeing Stick   by Jane Yolen
    Relates how an old man teaches the emperor’s blind daughter to see.  A picture book.

Cerebral Palsy

  • Stretching Ourselves: Kids with Cerebral Palsy   by Alden R. Carter
    Describes cerebral palsy and focuses on the daily lives of three children with varying degrees of this condition.
  • Living With Cerebral Palsy   by Susan H. Gray
    Describes what cerebral palsy is, what causes cp, what it is like to live with cp and how to help people with cerebral palsy.
  • Nathan’s Wish: A Story about Cerebral Palsy   by Laurie Lears
    A boy with cerebral palsy helps out at a raptor rehabilitation center and is inspired himself when an owl that cannot fly finds another purpose in life.  A picture book.
  • Rolling Along: The Story of Taylor and His Wheelchair   by Jamee Riggio Heelan
    Explains how having cerebral palsy affects Taylor, and how getting a wheelchair makes a big difference in helping him get around, do things by himself, and even play basketball with his twin Tyler.
  • Summer Tunes: A Martha’s Vineyard Vacation   by Patricia McMahon
    Ten-year-old Conor, who has cerebral palsy, spends a summer vacation with his family on Martha’s Vineyard in this photographic essay.
  • Sara’s Secret   by Suzanne Wanous
    At first Sara doesn’t want anyone at her new school to know about her younger brother Justin who has cerebral palsy.  A picture book.

Deafness and Hearing Impairment

  • One TV Blasting and a Pig Outdoors   by Deborah Abbott
    Conan describes life with his father who lost his hearing at the age of three.  Fiction.
  • Going With the Flow   by Claire H. Blatchford
    When Mark changes schools in mid-year, he is angry, lonely, and embarrassed by his deafness, but he soon begins to adjust. Includes information about deafness and illustrations of signs.  Fiction.
  • What is the Sign for Friend?   by Judith E. Greenberg
    Text and photographs depict the life of Shane, a deaf child who goes to regular school and enjoys normal activities with the help of sign language and a hearing aid.
  • Can You Hear a Rainbow?: The Story of a Deaf Boy Named Chris   by Jamee Riggio Heelan
    A deaf child tells how he uses sign language, hearing aids, and his other senses to communicate, how his friends help him, and how he goes to school with an interpreter.
  • My Friend is Deaf   by Anna Levene
    Amy learns about deafness, how it affects her friend Daniel and what support she can give to him.
  • Deaf Child Crossing   by Marlee Matlin
    Despite the fact that Megan is deaf and Cindy can hear, the two girls become friends when Cindy moves into Megan’s neighborhood, but when they go away to camp, their friendship is put to the test.  Fiction.
  • Moses Goes to a Concert   by Isaac Millman
    Moses and his schoolmates, all deaf, attend a concert where the orchestra’s percussionist is also deaf. Includes illustrations in sign language and a page showing the manual alphabet.  Picture books.
  • I Have a Sister: My Sister is Deaf   by Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson
    A young girl describes how her deaf sister experiences everyday things.
  • Jordan Has a Hearing Loss   by Jillian Powell
    Follows a day in the life of Jordan, who uses sign language, reads lips, and wakes up each day with a vibrating alarm clock.
  • Some Kids are Deaf   by Lola Schaefer
    Simple text and photographs describe the condition of deafness and some of the everyday activities of children who are deaf.
  • The Printer   by Myron Uhlberg
    A boy recalls the day his deaf father saved everyone’s life when fire broke out at the newspaper printing plant where he worked.  A picture book.
  • Think about Being Deaf   by Maggie Woolley
    Examines the nature, causes, history, treatment, means of communication, challenges, and social aspects of deafness.

Down Syndrome

  •  Be Good to Eddie Lee   by Virginia Fleming
    Although Christy considered him a pest, when Eddie Lee, a boy with Down syndrome, follows her into the woods, he shares several special discoveries with her.  A picture book.
  • Let’s Talk about Down’s Syndrome   by Melanie Apel Gordon
    Describes what causes Down syndrome and how it affects those children who have it, stressing how they can be helped to lead happy lives.
  • How Smudge Came   by Nan Gregory
    Cindy, who lives in a group home and works all day at Hospice House, fights to keep the small stray dog she finds on the street.  A picture book.
  • Luke Has Down’s Syndrome   by Jillian Powell
    Luke shares a first person account of what it’s like to have Down syndrome.
  • Where’s Chimpy?   by Berniece Rabe
    Text and photographs show Misty, a little girl with Down syndrome, and her father reviewing her day’s activities in their search for her stuffed monkey.  A picture book.
  • Russ and the Almost Perfect Day   by Janet Elizabeth Rickert
    Russ, a student with Down syndrome, is having a perfect day until he realizes that the five-dollar bill he has found probably belongs to a classmate.  Picture book.
  • Just the Facts: Down Syndrome   by Kristina Routh
    Provides an overview of Down syndrome, describing what it is, the history of this disorder, what it is like to live with Down syndrome, and some of the available treatments.
  • We’ll Paint the Octopus Red   by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
    Emma and her father discuss what they will do when the new baby arrives, but they adjust their expectations when he is born with Down syndrome.  A picture book.
  • My Friend Isabelle   by Eliza Woloson
    A young boy named Charlie describes the activities he shares with his friend Isabelle, a girl with Down Syndrome.  A picture book.


  • Let’s Talk about Dyslexia   by Melanie Apel Gordon
    Discusses a learning disability of approximately one in every ten people, including Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, and how to cope with it.
  • The Alphabet War: A Story about Dyslexia   by Diane Burton Robb
    Learning to read is a great struggle for Adam, but with expert help, hard work, and belief in himself, he wins “The Alphabet War.”  Includes information about dyslexia.  A picture book.
  • Dyslexia   by Paula Wiltshire
    A comprehensive look at dyslexia, covering definitions, causes, assessment, and treatments.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Nicole’s Story : A Book about a Girl with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis   by Virginia Aldape
    An eight-year-old girl talks about what her life is like with the disease of JRA or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
  • My Brother Made Me Do It   by Peg Kehret
    In letters to an elderly pen pal, eleven-year-old Julie describes how her mischievous younger brother is always getting her in trouble, how she is dealing with painful juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and how she struggles to finish a fund-raising race on crutches.  Fiction.
  • Juvenile Arthritis   by Judith Peacock
    Discusses the types of arthritis, the treatment and complications of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and research related to this disease.
  • Homeroom Exercise   by Jana Striegel
    When eleven-year-old Regan begins to suffer from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, she must face the possibility that her dream of being a professional dancer may never come true.  Fiction.

Muscular Dystrophy

  •  My Buddy   by Audrey Osofsky
    A young boy with muscular dystrophy tells how he is teamed up with a dog trained to do things for him that he can’t do for himself.  A picture book.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • Not as Crazy as I Seem   by George Harrar
    As fifteen-year-old Devon begins mid-year at a new prestigious prep school, he is plagued by compulsions such as the need to sort things into groups of four.  Young adult fiction.
  • Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD   by Holly Niner
    Kevin works with his parents, teachers, and Dr. Fraser to learn what to do when “Mr. Worry” calls.

Physical Challenges

  • Let’s Talk about Being in a Wheelchair   by Melanie Apel
    Describes what it is like to use a wheelchair.
  • Arnie and the New Kid   by Nancy Carlson
    When an accident requires Arnie to use crutches, he begins to understand the limits and possibilities of his new classmate, who has a wheelchair.  A picture book.
  • Wheel Wizards   by Matt Christopher
    Angry and unhappy because he is now in a wheelchair and apparently no longer able to play basketball, twelve-year-old Seth is amazed to discover wheelchair basketball and finds that his life is not over after all.  Fiction.
  • Mama Zooms   by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
    A boy’s wonderful mama takes him zooming everywhere with her, because her wheelchair is a zooming machine.  A picture book.
  • Helping Hands: How Monkeys Assist People Who are Disabled   by Suzanne Haldane
    A photo essay focusing on a teenager with quadriplegia and his capuchin monkey, illustrating how capuchins are trained to provide help and companionship to people with disabilities.
  • The Storm   by Marc Harshman
    Though confined to a wheelchair, Jonathan faces the terror of a tornado all by himself and saves the lives of the horses on the family farm.  A picture book.
  • Gretchen: The Bicycle Dog   by Anita Heyman
    The true story of a dachshund who adjusts to a serious handicap. After an unfortunate jump, Gretchen loses the function of her hind legs. Eventually her loving family fits her with a bicycle-like contraption that greatly improves her mobility and enables her to live a happy, active life.  A picture book.
  • Think about Being in a Wheelchair   by Lois Keith
    Examines the challenges of being in a wheelchair, discussing why some people cannot walk and how those who use a wheelchair function in their daily lives.
  • Willow King: Race the Wind   by Chris Platt
    Determined to ride her horse in the Kentucky Derby despite her physical handicap, Katie overcomes great obstacles and even helps a blind girl face her own kind of challenge.  Fiction.
  • Talking about Disability   by Jillian Powell
    Discusses disabilities, the physical and social challenges faced by people with disabilities, how they can work and play, and what kinds of help are available, with an emphasis on physical disabilities.
  • Our Teacher’s in a Wheelchair   by Mary Ellen Powers
    Text and photographs depict the activities of Brian Hanson, who leads an active life as a nursery school teacher despite a partial paralysis requiring the use of a wheelchair.
  • Finding a Way: Living with Exceptional Brothers and Sisters   by Maxine B. Rosenberg
    Photographs and text describe brother-sister relationships in which one sibling has a physical disability—diabetes, asthma, and spina bifida.
  • Some Kids Use Wheelchairs   by Lola M. Schaefer
    Simple text and photographs discuss the challenges of using a wheelchair, why some children cannot walk, and the everyday activities of children who use wheelchairs.
  • Some Kids Wear Leg Braces   by Lola M. Schaefer
    Describes some of the reasons children might be required to wear leg braces and how they are helpful.
  • My Brother, Matthew   by Mary Thompson
    Though David knows frustration and resentment at times, he feels he understands his disabled brother even better than his parents; and together they experience a great deal of joy.  A picture book.

Spina Bifida

  • Featherless   by Juan Felipe Herrera
    Although Tomasito’s spina bifida keeps him in a wheelchair, where he often feels as confined as his flightless and featherless pet bird, he discovers that he can feel free when he is on the soccer field.  In Spanish and English.
  • Sam Uses a Wheelchair   by Jillian Powell
    Sam shows us her daily exercises, uses her standing frame, and plays basketball with her friend in this book from the Like Me Like You series.
  • All Kinds of Friends, Even Green!   by Ellen B. Senisi
    In a school assignment, seven-year-old Moses, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, reflects that his neighbor’s disabled iguana resembles him because they both have figured out how to get where they want to be in different ways than those around them.  A picture book.
  • Colt   by Nancy Springer
    A young boy with a crippling disease learns, through a horseback riding program, to overcome his own anxieties and to help others in dealing with their own problems.  Fiction.

Tourette Syndrome

  • Tourette Syndrome   by Marlene Targ Brill
    Examines the tic disorder known as Tourette syndrome, its symptoms and manifestations, how it can be controlled and treated, and what it is like to live with Tourette’s.
  • I Can’t Stop! A Story about Tourette’s Syndrome   by Holly L. Niner
    A boy is diagnosed with Tourette syndrome and learns about constructive ways he can manage his condition.  Includes nonfiction information from a physician.  A picture book.


The Elmhurst Public Library owns many more titles on special needs and disabilities. Use a keyword search in our online catalog for fiction or non-fiction about a specific subject, or use the subject heading “People with disabilities,” or ask a librarian at the Kids’ Library Help Desk.