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Books for Kids about Disabilities and Complex Needs

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children have a developmental disability in the U.S., and 1 in 10 children have a rare disease. Globally, more than 250 million children have a disability. In a world where there isn’t enough awareness, we do have children’s books that make disability more relatable, while reminding our kids that we are each unique in our own way. Each of these makes great reading for any child you may know. Children, at heart, are compassionate and kind and would love to understand disability better, if given the opportunity.

Don’t miss our other Rare Parenting Book Lists!

Can I play too Picture Books for Children about Disability

Can I Play Too is one of a series of much-loved Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems. In this story, Gerald and Piggie encounter a snake who wants to join them in their game of catch. The story unfolds as they try to answer the question “How can you play catch without any arms?” The snake, of course, pushes the point that some people are born with differences. In learning alongside the snake, Gerald and Piggie find a new friend.

Recommended for ages 4-8

This beach is loud Picture Books for Children about Disability

This Beach is Loud! is one of a four-part Little Senses series by Samantha Cotterill. It follows a little boy who becomes very overwhelmed at the beach. His dad saves the day with a special trick. This book is great for any child with sensory sensitivities and for teaching other children about sensory-sensitive kids.

Other books in the series include It Was Supposed to Be Sunny, Can I Play Too?, and Nope, Never, Not for Me.

Recommended for ages 3-7

Sometimes book cover

Sometimes is a heart-warming sibling story, told by Toby about his big sister Clemmie. Clemmie has a wheelchair and a feeding tube, and often sees doctors and goes to the hospital. Toby tells the story of everything that “sometimes” happens in their lives. He mentions that since Clemmie can’t dance, he dances twice as much for her. And he mentions that sometimes she holds his hand tight, and sometimes she cuddles with him, too.

Recommended for ages 3+

can bears ski picture book Polly Dunbar

Can Bears Ski? is an endearing story about a little boy bear living in a world where he can’t seem to understand what is being said to him. At times, others think he’s ignoring them. He is repeatedly asked “Can bears ski?” by those he encounters. In time, he understands he is actually asked, “Can you hear me?” This tale follows the little bear as he learns he is experiencing deafness and receives his first hearing aids.

Recommended for ages 3-7

a day with no words Picture Books for Children about Disability

A Day With No Words earned its place at #1 on the New York Times Bestselling Children’s Picture Books list (see the May 28, 2023 list here) due to its heartwarming “day in the life” told from the perspective of a little boy with autism. The author works to remind the reader that many autistic children are capable of just as many thoughts as the next boy or girl; they simply cannot verbalize them in the same way.

Recommended for ages 4-8

Giraffes Can't Dance

While not outwardly disability-specific, Giraffes Can’t Dance is a very charming read, worthy of this list. It follows Gerald, a clumsy giraffe with crooked knees and thin legs. Gerald is saddened when he tries to dance, but can’t. Then, a little cricket tells him that, “Sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.” Sure enough, Gerald amazes all the animals when he finds music he loves and can dance, in his own way.

Recommended for ages 3-9

Charlie Mae's first day

Charlie Mae’s First Day follows a little girl who was born with a rare genetic disorder and, as a result, cannot talk or walk. She also sometimes has seizures. On her first day, her classmates are eager to learn all about her, and to her surprise, they are eager to be friends, too!

Recommended for ages 4-8

My three best friends and me, Zulay

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay follows a little girl who is blind and surprises everyone when she says she wants to run in the Field Day race. Zulay is determined to succeed, overcoming the odds. This book reminds kids to lean on support when it’s available and give it to others as well.

Recommended for ages 4-8

Rare Is Everywhere

Rare is Everywhere is another great story that isn’t specifically about disabilities. Instead, it showcases various animals that are unique and special due to something different about them, such as the white alligator and pink grasshopper. It ends with the message, “If you ever feel different… don’t worry, because rare is everywhere!”.

Recommended for ages 3-8

We move together Picture Books for Children about Disability

We Move Together follows a group of children with varying disabilities who connect through their differences. It is read in homes and classrooms alike—it opens the door to teaching kids about disabilities, social justice, inclusion, accessibility, and community building.

Recommended for ages 6-9

Book: Say Hello

Say Hello begins with the message, “Not everyone is just like you, but they can still be your friends, too!” Each page introduces a new character with a different disability. They each describe their uniqueness and remind the reader he/she can be their friend, just say hello! We meet boys and girls with hearing aids, feeding tubes, AAC devices, braces, limb differences, and more.

Recommended for ages 4-8


Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022, CDC’s Work on Developmental Disabilities

National Organization for Rare Diseases, n.d, Frequently Asked Questions

Disclosure: Occasionally, we include links to recommended products. When you purchase a product through a link, we may earn a small percentage of the sale, at no cost to you. These sales contribute to the operation of our site, and help to keep content free to read.

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