5 Significant Special Needs Books

Children at some point will encounter people with disabilities. In such situations, they may be inclined to stare, heckle, laugh or make inappropriate comments. They may even be scared sometimes. Siblings of children with disabilities also face a myriad of ambivalent emotions, where they love their sibling but simultaneously feel resentment, and embarrassment about the way their sibling looks or behaves. From another perspective, children with a disability should be helped to accept themselves and celebrate their uniqueness. Hippocampus has identified a few books that are ideal to explore questions about developmental delays and physical and intellectual disabilities that can help sensitize children, and introduce them to world of special needs in a gentle way.

Ian’s walk – A Story about Autism

Writer: Laurie Lears | Illustrator: Karen Ritz

Julie is excited to go to the park with her big sister Tara. She is however, unsure if she wants to take her little brother Ian, who has autism. When Ian insists by whining, she rushes and tugs him along. Tara and Julie feed cereal to the ducks at the park, when Ian lies on the ground with his cheeks pressed against hard stones. Ian does not have the same sensory reactions as his sisters’, and this makes Julie feel angry and embarrassed. When Ian goes missing in the park, her feelings instantly change; she knows that she loves her brother and that she must find him. Julie discovers that the best way to find Ian is to think like him and she therefore, attempts to see the world through Ian’s eyes. A heart-warming book, that can help teach patience and compassion towards children with autism. A book more specifically appropriate for siblings of children with autism, as it highlights the complexities of their relationship.

Catch that Cat

Writer: Tharini Viswanath | Pictures: Nancy Raj

A lovely book about a spirited girl who is determined to find her friend’s missing cat Kaapi. Dip Dip is the naughtiest child in school; she whizzes through the corridors, starts most of the food fights during break time, and plays with the monkeys through the window. One morning, Dip Dip’s friend Meemo cries that her cat has gone missing. Dip Dip decides to help. She begins her search by looking behind houses, inside dustbins and under the bushes. During her forage, she thinks about how grateful she is for her wheelchair that makes her faster than her friends.  After a lot of searching, Dip Dip finally discovers that Kaapi has climbed up a tree and settled himself comfortably on a high branch. Dip Dip wheels herself close to the trunk of the tree and lifts herself up the branches to help him. How do they both get down safe?  This wonderful book with bright detailed illustrations may help sensitize children and break all stereotypes associated to disabilities in a subtle but matter-of-fact way.

Kanna Panna

Writer: Zai Whitaker | Illustrator: Niloufer Wadia

Kanna is a happy child who has a way with words, or the words rather seem to have a way with Kanna “The teacher asked me my name and I said, ‘Kanna’. Then before I could stop my voice, it said, ‘Kanna Panna’.” “When Amma said, ‘Don’t play with dirt,’ my mind said, ‘and tuck in your shirt.’” His parents seem be a little impatient with him, always telling him what to do. Kanna likes it better at his cousin’s house where there aren’t too many rules. One day, Kanna along with his aunt’s family visit the dark cave temples. When they are inside, the faint light suddenly goes out, and the whole cave is engulfed in darkness. Everyone panics, except Kanna. Darkness isn’t new to Kanna, as he is visually impaired. He calmly retraces his steps and leads his family out of the cave into daylight. For the first time in life, Kanna realises his strengths. Kanna Panna is a poignant, thought-provoking story which is certain to leave the reader with a fresh perspective, questioning the limitations of being normal.  A great book to read aloud to children with disabilities, as it may help them relate to Kanna, and celebrate their uniqueness. An apt book to introduce awareness in classrooms.

My Name is Brain Brian

Author: Jeanne Betancourt

My name is Brain Brian is a delicate portrayal of the difficulties faced by a dyslexic child, who doesn’t know that he’s dyslexic. He thinks of himself as dull, his parents think he’s lazy, and his classmates make fun of him because he struggles to read and write. This makes Brian dread going to school. One of his teachers observes Brian’s writing patterns; discovers his condition and helps Brian by taking extra effort in nurturing his learning. Brian is embarrassed by all the attention that he gets but he also realizes that the attention is necessary because he ‘learns differently’. My Name is Brain Brian is a great book to read to children with learning disabilities and also to those without.


Author: R.J Palacio

August Pullman is like any regular ten-year-old kid. August eats ice cream, rides his bike, plays ball and also has his very own Xbox. His parents love him immensely and therefore think that he is extraordinary, his sister Via is very protective of him and gets furious when they stare at him or pass mean comments because of his rare medical facial deformity. The only person who realizes August is ordinary, is himself. After being home schooled for many years, Auggie’s parents finally agree to put him in a regular school where he faces numerous upsetting situations. There are several small moments in the book that force the reader to stop and reflect – The way Auggie feels during Halloween is one such moment. ‘Wonder’ has the power to evoke empathy and respect – an inspiring book to educate children about acceptance.

3 Comments on “5 Significant Special Needs Books

  1. When i was a kid I was given a few books about epilepsy by my GP to explain what it was – I forget the name of it but one was about a boy falling in a river when he had a fit but ultimately saving a baby? Anyway, a brilliant way to learn about different conditions even for children without any themselves

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