Kids’ Resources on Disability Awareness and Acceptance
Looking for resources to explore with your kid and spark a discussion about disability acceptance and advocacy? Our research team, and Undivided parent Michelle M. and other parents in our community, have gathered some great resources to help our kiddos along their self-empowerment journeys. Be sure to also check out part I of this series, which provides books, TED Talks, and online resources for adults. And check out the children’s version of Judy’s book, Being Heumann, which was released in February 2021!
(Consider purchasing books from these booksellers if you’d like to support businesses owned by people with disabilities!)
Preschool and kindergarten age
- Come Meet Drayden by Dana Young-Askew
- Come Over to My House by Eliza Hull, Sally Rippin, and by Daniel Gray-Barnett
- Different—A Great Thing to Be! by Heather Avis
- Eli, Included by Michelle Sullivan
- I Am Connor by Connor and Fred Rodriguez
- I Am Me: Just As Life Is Meant To Be by Katelyn S. Herrygers
- It's Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr
- Juan Has the Jitters by Aneta Cruz
- Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor
- More Alike Than Different by Gail Hamblin
- This is Ella by Krista Ewert
- We're Amazing 1,2,3! A Story about Friendship and Autism by Leslie Kimmelman
- When Charley Met Emma by Amy Webb
- Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down by Lindsey Rowe Parker
- You Are Enough by Margaret O'Hair
- You’re All Kinds of Wonderful by Nancy Tillman
Elementary school age
- 47 Strings: Tessa’s Special Code by Becky Carey
- All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel
- Born to Sparkle: A Story About Achieving Your Dreams by Megan Bomgaars
- Ian's Walk: A Story about Autism by Laurie Lears and Karen Ritz
- My Friend has Down Syndrome by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
- Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw
- We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch
- We'll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
- What's Inside You, It’s Inside Me Too: My Chromosomes Make Me Unique by Deslie Quinby and Jeannie Visootsak
Middle school age
Books About Disability Advocacy
Helping our children understand that they are not alone and connecting them with a community of people like them can lead to self-empowerment, advocacy, activism, and pride. In our Live Chat, disability activist Judy Heumann emphasized just how important this connection and empowerment is. We can start by introducing our kids to celebrities and historical figures who share their disability: read and watch videos about them and discuss what made or makes them successful. We can look for disability support programs such as youth leadership groups, clubs, adaptive sports programs, or other students who can act as guides. We can actively involve our children in decisions: kids with disabilities need choice and autonomy in their daily lives, and learning to assert themselves in a variety of settings — from the local park to IEP meetings — can promote a strong sense of advocacy.
Rolling Warrior by Judy Heumann
This is "the incredible, sometimes awkward, true story of a rebel girl on wheels who helped spark a revolution" — the teen/young reader edition of her memoir, Being Heumann.
Fighting for Yes! by Maryann Cocca-Leffler & Vivien Mildenberger, with an afterword by Judy Heumann.
This picture book for kids is a biography celebrating the life and work of Judy Heumann, highlighting one of her landmark achievements, the 504 Sit-in in 1977.
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor
This beautiful picture book for kids by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is about helping children embrace and be proud of their uniqueness. The book features characters with a variety of disabilities. Ages 4–8
Coaster by Dr. Paula Kluth
Written by an expert on disability and inclusion, this is the story of an animal shelter dog who uses a wheelchair. People are impressed by the cool tricks he can do with his wheels, but he is never adopted. One day, a child arrives who adopts him not for his ability to do tricks but for who he is. This book is a great discussion starter about disability and the idea that accolades mean nothing without acceptance. You can also watch a video of Paula reading her book, which won a Parent’s Choice Award. Ages 3–8
The Little Book of Little Activists by Penguin Young Readers
This collection of inspirational quotes and photographs teaches kids the power of advocacy and their First Amendment rights. Topics including diversity, equality, and feminism are discussed in a manner appropriate for children. Ages 5–9
If You’re So Smart, How Come You Can’t Spell Mississippi by Barbara Esham
Part of a series of books called Everyday Geniuses that discusses issues of disabilities in terms of strengths and weaknesses that a child can understand, this particular book addresses dyslexia and helps kids feel good about their differences. Other books in the series address ADHD, multiple intelligences, dysgraphia, and other learning differences. Ages 4–8
Check out our recommendation for Parent Resources on Disability Awareness and Acceptance.
Other resources for book recommendations
Children's TV Show Characters with Disabilities
Representation is so important. While it’s estimated that 27% of adults live with a disability, people with disabilities make up only 3.1% of broadcast scripted primetime television characters. Clearly, we have a long way to go. In the meantime, here are some videos and television shows for kids that are broadening perspectives and opening doors for new dialogue.
Sesame Street, PBS/HBO
Elmo’s friend Julia has autism and is an important new addition to the show. Julia helps kids understand that verbal communication can be challenging for kids with autism, and that everyone communicates differently. The show has also highlighted stimming and how to respect the boundaries of someone who prefers minimal physical touch. Ages 3+
Avatar: The Last Airbender, Netflix
This classic animated show has just been released on Netflix and is making a strong cultural resurgence. One of its main characters, Toph, is a 13-year-old girl who is blind. She is considered one of the most powerful characters in the series. Ages 8+
One of Daniel Tiger’s newest friends is Chrissie, who uses crutches and braces to help her walk. Chrissie learns how to overcome her shyness to make new friends, appreciating their similarities and differences. Ages 3+
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Netflix
The character of Entrapta was confirmed by the show’s creator to have autism and is written and drawn by an artist on the spectrum. Ages 8+
Pixar’s award-winning short, "Loop," explores the inner world of Renee, a non-speaking teenage girl with autism (voiced by a young woman with autism). It looks at how we communicate and connect through sensory perception. It confronts everything from ableism to the need for human connection.
TED Talks for Kids
Tegan is an 18-year-old YouTuber and paralympian in dressage who speaks about growing up with cerebral palsy and her challenges and triumphs being young, Black, and disabled.
High school senior Hannah Adler discusses growing up with cerebral palsy and urges kids to realize that your disabilities make you the whole person that you are.
Ten-year-old Cole Blakeway teaches us the value of celebrating differences as he describes his beautiful friendship with Steven, a 44-year-old man with Autism.