10 Parent-Approved Books for Parenting Kids With Disabilities

I sometimes joke with friends we don’t have time for reading. However, as a parent of two children who have disabilities, I have found several books to be inspiring, life-changing and dream-giving.

When my youngest daughter was born with Down syndrome, my husband decided we needed to take a trip to the closest bookstore and get up-to-date books on Down syndrome so we were informed and prepared. We found a few books on “how to” for disability, but when he handed me a copy of the book “Gifts,” a collection of stories edited by Kathryn Lynard, I immediately read the back copy, clenched it to my chest and sobbed in the middle of the aisle at the bookstore. I needed that book. I needed to hear the stories of other mothers who had gone before me.

As the years have gone by, I have found books that challenge me, help me understand my children or help me become a better parent.

We asked our Mighty parents what their favorite books about parenting kids with disabilities are. Here are their recommendations. 

1. “The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Integration Dysfunction” by Carol Stock Kranowitz, MA

“The Out of Sync Child” is the book our community recommended the most. If your child has any sensory issues, you might find this book helpful. It explains the difference between children who are “sensory-seekers” and those who are “sensory-avoiders” based on their response to stimuli. Kranowitz also provides practical help for parents and offers some solutions. Several members of our parenting community call it a “must-have” for parents of children with sensory processing issues.

2. “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identityby Andrew Solomon

This is our community’s second most recommended book, and is based on hundreds of interviews plus 10 years of research. It also addresses important issues about parenting such as, “to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are and to what extent they should help them become their best selves?” The book stresses each family has unique challenges, yet many of the feelings are universal — such as isolation or facing obstacles that feel impossible at the time.

3. “Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children” by Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian

This book was written by two sisters who have kids with disabilities. They speak candidly about the joys and challenges of raising children with disabilities, and address issues such as the importance of finding a support group, school, dealing with other people, mental health issues and coping in a crisis. It is a laugh out loud book that will have you saying “me too!”

4. “Child Decoded: Unlocking Complex Issues in Your Child’s Learning, Behavior or Attention” by Marijke Jones, Robin E. McEvoy PhD and Kim Gangwish

You know how, sometimes as parents, we say we wish our kids came with a manual? This book might be as close as it gets. “Child Decoded” is especially helpful for children who have difficulty with behaviors and learning issues. The authors provide checklists and guidelines for parents as well as insights as to how our bodies work. “Child Decoded” doesn’t try and give just one solution to a child’s behavior or learning, it offers several things that can be done to help.

If I had to pick a “must-have” book, this might be it.

5. “The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed” by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek

In this book, Temple Gradin explains brain science and behavior. Grandin gives a fascinating look at how some symptoms and behaviors can be correlated to different parts of the brain. She argues that teaching kids on the autism spectrum should be tailored towards their strengths, not weaknesses, in order to foster “their unique contributions.”

6. “Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s” by John Elder Robinson

Personally, I think this book wins for the best cover picture. And if you enjoy memoirs, this is a great one to pick up. Robison recounts how it was hard for him to connect with people and how, by high school, he was labeled as “social deviant.” It wasn’t until he was 40 that Robison was diagnosed on the autism spectrum — changing the way he saw himself and the world around him.

7. “A Different Kind of Perfect: Writings by Parents on Raising a Child with Special Needs” edited by Cindy Dowling, Bernadette Thomas and Neil Nicoll

This book is a collection of stories and is divided into the different stages some parents might go through after receiving their child’s diagnosis, “starting with grief, denial, and anger and moving towards acceptance, empowerment, laughter, and even joy.”

“‘A Different Kind of Perfect’ was good,” a parenting community member said. “Helped me feel less alone.”

8. “The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs” by Andrew and Rachel Wilson

Written from a Christian perspective, Andrew and Rachel share their journey parenting two children with disabilities. They share the challenges and joys they face on a daily basis and how their experience is connected to their faith.

A few parents recommended this book. “Short, succinct and an absolute must read for Christian parents of kids with additional needs,” one parent said. “Totally real, no dressing anything up, gritty.”

9. “Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives” edited by Kathryn Lynard

What can I say, this was the book that changed my perspective and gave me new dreams as the mother of a child with Down syndrome. The beauty of this book is found in the diversity of the contributors. Women from all walks of life, faith and family backgrounds, join their voices to say, “the life of a child with Down syndrome is something to celebrate.”

10. “Kids Beyond Limits: The Anat Baniel Method for Awakening the Brain and Transforming the Life of Your Child With Special Needs” by Anat Baniel

This is a hands-on book that focuses on “the brain’s capacity to heal itself.” The Anat Banel method focuses on simple and gentle movement designed to help children who might have autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.

What are your favorite books about parenting kids with disabilities? Let us know in the comments.

Cover image by inarik

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