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We Need (Neuro)Diverse Books: Building Empathy for Children’s Mental Health and Neurodiversity

Presented at: The Region 20 Learning & Libraries Virtual Conference
Presentation Date: November 5th & 6th, 2020
Presentation Slides:

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder (such as autism). Most of us already serve these children in our libraries! How can we update our collections to better represent this group? Books help our students build empathy and increase understanding, and this is especially true for books about characters with conditions like autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and more. Come learn about the latest and greatest books in this category (including #OwnVoices titles), and leave with resources that will help you keep up with this growing subsection of children’s literature.

We will offer an introduction to neurodiversity and mental health, an explanation of why stories involving empathy, understanding, and social emotional learning are important, some ideas for displaying and promoting neurodiverse books, and resources to locate additional books and ideas for programming.

Additional Information:

As an autistic librarian (who also suffers from anxiety), this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I have written multiple articles about the importance of books by neurodivergent and autistic authors, including a blog post on the wonderful website A Novel Mind ( I think the site is an incredible resource and should be shared with librarians! As an undiagnosed autistic/anxious kid, I didn’t really get to see myself represented in the books I read. Today, there are so many amazing books that make me feel seen. These books can be invaluable for all audiences – students with similar conditions can relate, students without can gain a greater understanding of their peers, and the same is also true for adults (such as teachers and librarians)! As we integrate more Social-Emotional Learning concepts into our libraries, it is important for us to also include SEL topics in our library collections. While many books are available that cover these topics, it is my opinion that the best ones are written by those with direct experience. I look forward to sharing these amazing books with other librarians!


Published by Adriana Lebrón White

Autistic school librarian and former special education teacher. MA Ed in Special Education and MLIS with a focus on Youth Services and Storytelling.

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