The amount of research, personalized accounts and dissemination of information about Autism, ADHD, and other neurodivergence has exploded in the past few years, let alone the last decade. Those of us raised in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s are stoked to have a better understanding of ourselves and our children instead of being overlooked because we were “gifted” or performing “on level” or labeled as “just weird”. However, this onslaught of information leaves us with the task of deciphering what’s worth the little time and energy we have left at the end of the day.
My goal is to take out some of the guess work for you. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books for adults and/or parents to understand how neurodivergence impacts you and your family and what to do about it. I’ve also put these books in two main categories so you can start where you feel most comfortable.
Essential Understanding Books
by Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, Emily Paige Ballou, et al.
Page Length: 224
Reading Style: Story by Story; Can be read 5 minutes or 5 hours at a time
Who Should Read It: All Neurodivergent People and their Loved Ones
This is one of my favorite books on Autism I’ve come across and one that all Autistics and loved ones alike should have on their bookshelves. Sincerely, Your Autistic Child is an anthology of the experiences of Autistic people and what they wished the people around them would have known – including what helped and what really hurt. With each account being just a few pages long, this book is easy to pick up and put down if you only have a limited amount of time or a limited attention span with reading. This set up also allows for more time to process the stories you are reading. You will need this as the stories will likely bring up big emotions. If you have the spoons, I suggest keeping a journal along with this book to help you process your own emotional responses and advice you want to remember.
by Devon Price, PhD
Page Length: 304
Reading Style: Chapter by Chapter; Set aside at least 20 minutes, plan on reading it over a few days; Flip back through for specific tools
Who Should Read It: All Autistic People (especially newly diagnosed those who suspect they may have Autism)
Unmasking Autism has become essential reading for all autistic people, but especially those diagnosed later in life. Based on the research of Devon Price, PhD, Unmasking Autism reflects on the Autistic experience, the shift in our understanding of Autism over the last several decades, explains what masking is, the cost of masking, and how to create a healthy life and healthy relationships as an Autistic person.
Through narrative, reframing charts and diagrams, and reflective exercises, Dr. Price takes you through the process of learning how to better understand yourself, your past experiences, and why it took so long to understand yourself as autistic. They dive deep into what it has cost you to mask; how to identify, advocate for, and communicate your needs; how to combat negative thinking patterns about who you are and your value in this world; and how to identify and live by your own values.
by Deborah Reber
Page Length: 296
Reading Style: Chapter by Chapter: Set aside at least 20 minutes, plan on reading it over a few days
Who Should Read It: Parents/Loved ones of neurodivergent children and teens
While Sincerely, Your Autistic Child is an anthology of stories and advice from Autistic people, Differently Wired is the Parent’s guide on how to process and follow that advice by shifting your cognitive perspective and the practicalities of how you move through life as a neurodiverse family. Written by Deborah Reber, the founder of TiLT parenting, this book is more aimed towards parents who may be struggling to shift their perspective and need the compassion and validation that they love their children deeply and still struggle with the reality of not knowing what to do when their family life is not what they anticipated. This book encourages parents to explore their own biases and misconceptions to be able to “embrace the TiLT” versus trying to force their child to be a person they are not.
Skill Building Books
by Peg Dawson EdD, Richard Guare, PhD
Page Length: 314
Reading Style: Chapter by Chapter or Select Chapters as needed; Set aside at least 20 minutes, plan on reading it over a few days; Flip back through for specific tools
Who Should Read It: All Neurodivergent People and their Loved ones
Smart but Scattered is an informational guide on understanding and improving executive functioning. There are different versions for kids, teens, and adults which focus on the different ways we can address executive dysfunction based on what life requires of us throughout our development. This is truly a book of getting data to understand, then practical advice to apply that understanding for better functioning.
The authors’ model is based on two premises from their decades of research:
“Most individuals have an array of executive skill strengths as well as executive skill weaknesses.”
“The primary purpose of identifying areas of weakness is to be able to design and implement interventions to address those weaknesses.”
In essence: Neurodivergent or not, we all have lagging skills and we have things we can do without a second thought. It’s helpful to identify lagging skills not to shame ourselves but to figure out a system where we can function better instead of beating ourselves up about not being able to do it without a second thought.
A helpful part of this book is that you do not have to read the whole thing to get what you need from it! It is packed with great information from beginning to end but if you need to prioritize your time, energy, and attention, take the route below:
Read Part 1 and take the Executive Skills Questionnaire (my favorite tool in this book). This will help you identify your specific strengths and struggles around 11 executive skills.
Then, go to Part 3 and read only the chapters you need to around the specific skills you (or your child) struggle with.
by KC Davis, LPC
Page length: 160
Reading Style: Chapter by chapter; can be read 2 minutes or 2 hours at a time
Who Should Read It: Everyone, but especially All Neurodivergent People
If you have been on Neurodivergent TikTok, you probably know KC Davis, LPC, aka Domestic Blisters. My partner and I recently read this book together and her biggest takeaway was, “this is so freeing”. I could not agree more. The crux of How to Keep House While Drowning is that cleanliness is morally neutral. By being able to shift our mindset from “My house is a wreck. I’m failing.” to “What do I need to do to make my house function right now?”, we are able to move out of shame and into a more functional and peaceful space, mind, and life.
Written for the neurodivergent mind, How to Keep House While Drowning is split into short, simple chapters. It has an “alternate reading path” to get you through the book more quickly if you are short on time or attention span. It gives some specific thoughts on ways you may make your space more functional, but overall focuses on how to help yourself figure out what you need, how to give yourself the grace and compassion you need to do it, and how to allow yourself patience and rest along the way.