Do you want to learn more about people with Developmental Disabilities, rather than their conditions? Than this list of books is for you!

When faced with staying indoors, what better time to explore new books to learn more about people with Developmental Disabilities? This list was developed from suggestions made by Communitas staff & families!


Wonder, R.J. Palacio (2012)

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Plankton Dreams: What I Learned in Special Ed, Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay (2015)

Mukhopadhyay crafts a proud, satiric style: the special ed student as literary troublemaker. For all of its comic effects, Plankton Dreams alerts readers to an alternative understanding of autism, an understanding that autistics themselves have been promoting for years. Frustrated by how most scientists investigate autism, Mukhopadhyay decides to investigate neurotypicality, treating his research subjects the way he himself was treated. Why shouldn’t the autist study the neurotypical? This artful parody of scientific endeavor salvages dignity from a dark place.

Fly Me To The Autistic Mind by Tom Brooks (Communitas Employee!)

“My goal with this book is to help those who are just being diagnosed to understand they are not alone in being on this vast spectrum.I also hope to help families and teachers in better understanding this spectrum. A lot has changed from the historic approaches of what to do and how to react.So to answer the question of what does autism mean to me, I would like to say this: Autism to me means a unique take on the world.” 

State Boys Rebellion, Michael D’Antonio (2004)

D’Antonio weaves together the story of a group of State Boys and the history of eugenics and human intelligence policies in the mid-20th century

The Lives They Left Behind, Darby Penney, Peter Stastny (2009)

Profiles of 10 individual patients whose suitcase contents proved intriguing (there were 427 bags total), referencing their institutional record-including histories and session notes-as well as some on-the-ground research.

Riding the Bus with My Sister, Rachel Simon (2003)

Beth is a spirited woman with developmental disabilities, who spends nearly every day riding the buses in Philadelphia. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. When Beth asks her sister Rachel to accompany her on the buses for one year, they take a transcendent journey together that changes Rachel’s life in incredible ways and leads her to accept her sister at long last—teaching her to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Power Tools, David Hingsburger (2000)

Power Tools challenges the reader to constantly evaluate their use of power when serving people who have disabilities. It is at turns comfortable and at turns reassuring.

A Child Called It, David Pelzer (1995)

The Way I See It: A Personal Look At Autism And Aspergers, Temple Grandin  (2009)

Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson (1998)

Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs (2006)

Memoir of the author, the story of Burroughs’s bizarre childhood life after his mother, who had an obsession with Anne Sexton, sent him to live with her psychiatrist.

Dry: A Memoir, Augusten Burroughs (2004)

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father, Augusten Burroughs (2008)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)

Mark Haddon’s bitterly funny debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a murder mystery of sorts–one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child’s quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behavior of his elders and peers. This is a good read to learn more about people with Developmental Disabilities.

Lottery, Patricia Wood (2007)

Perry’s IQ is only 76, but he’s not stupid. His grandmother taught him everything he needs to know to survive.  Then his weekly Washington State Lottery ticket wins him 12 million dollars, and he finds he has more family than he knows what to do with. Peopled with characters both wicked and heroic who leap off the pages, Lottery is a deeply satisfying, gorgeously rendered novel about trust, loyalty, and what distinguishes us as capable.

The Story of Beautiful Girl, Rachel Simon (2011)

A love story about two developmentally challenged people trying to escape from an institutional system that would keep them physically apart but could not diminish their love for each other

How to Be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism, Eileen Garvin (2010)

Eileen Garvin’s older sister, Margaret, was diagnosed with severe autism at age three. Growing up alongside Margaret wasn’t easy: Eileen often found herself in situations that were simultaneously awkward, hilarious, and heartbreaking. For example, losing a blue plastic hairbrush could leave Margaret inconsolable for hours, and a quiet Sunday Mass might provoke an outburst of laughter, swearing, or dancing.

The Horse Boy, Rupert Isaacson (2009)

An autobiographical book and a documentary feature film that follow the quest of Rupert Isaacson and his wife to find healing for their autistic son Rowan. After discovering that Rowan’s condition appears to be improved by contact with horses and other animals, the family leave their home in Texas on an arduous journey to seek help from the traditional shamans in Mongolia.

Autism Life Skills: From Communication and Safety to Self-Esteem and More – 10 Essentials Abilities Every Child Needs and Deserves to Learn, Chantal Sicile-Kira (2008)

From an award-winning author and advocate, Autism Life Skills presents a positive and empowering “bill of rights” for every person with autism, regardless of impairment level. With advice and reflections from autistic adults across the spectrum, as well as Sicile-Kira’s own experience as an advocate and parent of an autistic teen, the book covers these ten essential life skills.

Do? Be? Do? What to Teach and How to Teach People with Developmental Disabilities, David Hingsburger (1998)

No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement, Joseph Shapiro (1994)

An Investigative Reporter for NPR, Shapiro chronicles the struggle of those with disabilities and their families in securing basic civil rights for this population. Again, this is an emotional read that gives insight into the dedication and devotion of advocates for students to receive the right to a free, appropriate, public education

Christmas in Purgatory: A Photographic Essay on Mental Retardation, Burton Blatt & Fred Kaplan (1974)

A photo expose’ made by two journalists in 1966 who went into institutions for individuals with disabilities who had hidden cameras on their belt buckles. It is downloadable for free as an e-book and available for purchase from the University of Syracuse.

Thinking in Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life with Autism, Temple Grandin (1996)

Grandin writes from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person. She tells us how she managed to breach the boundaries of autism to function in the outside world. What emerges is the document of an extraordinary human being, one who gracefully bridges the gulf between her condition and our own while shedding light on our common identity.

Check out our tv and movie list to learn more about people with Developmental Disabilities!