My son has always been a little different.

As a baby, he never crawled. He went from sitting to standing to walking. However, I remember clearly that he was two years old, could already run but he could not sit himself up, if he was lying down on his back. We had to do some physical therapy for that.

There were other things… he never liked making a mess. When he was eating, he didn’t put his hands in the food. After playing, he was quick to learn the habit of putting his toys back in their boxes and, as soon as he could walk around by himself, he would just have to have all the doors closed around him.

Cutting his hair or nails, brushing his teeth, cleaning his nose were a struggle for a long time.

Socially, there were signs too. He preferred keeping to himself and had a very hard time letting new people in. At home he has always been a sweetheart but the outside world has scared him from the very beginning, even in the shape of loving and friendly people like his grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins.

He has been developing well though. He is five now and doing everything he should be doing. Granted… he had the misfortune of having two bad years in preschool and kindergarten, through no fault of his own (neglectful teachers and bullying, but those are stories for another time) and there are things he refused to do for a very long time, because he associated them with school.

As a mother, I never worried much about him. My experience as a teacher told me that there are children with similar “issues” that simply outgrow them.

As of late, I have come across the concept of sensory disorders, which was entirely new to me, strangely enough.

I have been reading a lot on the topic and find it spot on for my son. He has mild “issues” but I am looking ahead and thinking that, having found this sooner rather than later, I can help him with attention troubles, social integration and loads more.

I will be writing more on the topic, especially with resources that do not include medication, special schools or invasive procedures.

For today, here is a list of ten picture books for kids with sensory dissorder needs.

As I was doing this research, I came to find out that, in fact, there aren’t too many! I was very surprised. But hey, as an author, that means that there is an opportunity here. One that I am extremely drawn to, since it will be helping my son – and other kids with similar needs.

If you are a mom or dad or caretaker of a child with a sensory processing disorder or special sensory needs and would like to suggest a topic for a picture book, please feel free to drop me a line at mariaellisbooks {at}!

10 Picture Books for Kids with Sensory Needs

1. How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine

how to build a hug temple grandin

The first book on the list comes from Temple Grandin who is one of the most famous people on the autism spectrum and sensory issues in the world. She is a professor and inventor who conquered her challenges and created some amazing things in the world.

If your child needs tight spaces or to be squeezed, like in a strong hug – except not by people – then you will like this book.

2. I won’t Cut My Hair!

i won't cut my hair book sensory needs disorder

My child refused to have a hair cut for a very long time. When he was two and a half he struggled and flailled so much in my arms at the hairdresser’s, that he managed to cut his finger in the scissors. We never went back. I took to watching YouTube videos on how to cut boys’ hair and this is how we do it now. At least he lets his mama cut it – with lots of help from the PJ Masks or TinTin!

3. Monkey Bandit and the Funny Toothbrush


monkey bandit and the funny toothbrush sensory disorder

Staying with the body, next we tackle brushing the teeth! Parents who do not know what sensory issues are may wonder why their child becomes a raging whale when a toothbrush comes close to their mouth… It is hard to understand, if you do not know what it is about.

One thing I do know though: humor makes everything go better. This one (by yours truly…) makes brushing teeth into a game: Monkey Bandit finds a toothbrush on the floor. Only he does not know that it is for brushing teeth… so he starts brushing his head, his ears, his tummy, his nose… and lots of other body parts. It will get lots of giggles – and the desire to immitate!

If I may suggest… “sacrifice” a tootbrush and let your child go at it with brushing body parts. You get an exercise in body awareness AND, for kids with sensory issues, a tactile exercise!

4. Little Monkey Calms Down

little monkey calms down sensory disorder picture book

Having a sensory disorder is not an easy thing for a little child. The world may be too loud, too fast, too rough, too bright… nerves frazzled, a small kid has to learn to navigate it nonetheless. But when it gets really, really hard, then we can have meltdowns.

This little book, very appreciated by parents, teaches small kids how to calm down… in meditation fashion.

5. Jilly’s Terrible Temper Tantrums: And How She Outgrew Them

jilly's terrible temper tantrums sensory disorder

Sometimes meltdowns can become full blown temper tantrums.

Parents can have a hard time telling which one is which… but just know that not all temper tantrums come from being spoiled or bratty – or even tired, hungry or thirsty. Sometimes it can simply get to be TOO MUCH. However, as kids grow…

6. I’m Not Just a Scribble!

not just a scribble sensory processing disorder

Oh, if I had a penny for every time my son’s teachers made (not so nice) comments about his… scribbles… I call them drawings, of course and they make perfect sense to me, as they do to my son and all of us in the family.

But kids go to school and they see other kids – who sometimes draw differently. But a scribble is not just a scribble… it is a real drawing!

I love the idea of this book because it speaks to children who have a hard time with beginning to write – or even color – and everything that goes with it: holding a pencil, precision etc.

They need help, surely – but it is also important to admire the “scribbles” and give them their proper importance!

Just because a child is developing in a different way (or at a different pace) doesn’t mean he or she is “less than”!

7. My Mouth is a Volcano!

my mouth is a volcano sensory processing disorder picture book

This book was written for all kids – because they all tend to open their mouths and let the words fly out whenever they come to them. In the adult world, this is known as “interrupting” :).

For kids with a sensory processing disorder, this can be even more difficult because they perceive the world differently. They don’t necessarily get all the cues or, because they are bombarded with signals from their senses, they really are too overwhelmed to think about whether they should speak or not.

However, I find that education and just knowing that an “issue” exists works for even the youngest people! It doesn’t cross their minds that it’s not okay to interrupt someone, it really doesn’t! Yes, they do need to be reminded of it plenty of times, but this lesson will serve them well with social issues too.

8. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes

the girl who never made mistakes sensory processing disorder picture book

I absolutely love the concept of this book! It is about a girl who is, well, perfect! She always does and says the right thing – which, to a child with a sensory processing disorder may seem extremely, sorrowfully, disappointingly unattainable.

Kids with “special needs” can get the idea, about themselves, that they can “make only mistakes”. Which is not true, of course.

The lesson here is that, of course, perfectionism is a problem, not something to strive for and that mistakes are a normal and necessary part of learning – and of life.

9. The Invisible Boy

the invisible boy sensory processing disorder

Kids with sensory processing disorders can feel very lonely at school. Because they are different, they seem “weird” and so other children don’t know how to approach them – or have no desire to.

They themselves may have problems understanding social situations and, because this is very scary, they prefer to keep themselves on the sidelines.

This gentle book tells a story that is very useful for sweet souls like these: it is about a little boy, Brian, who is lonely and alone because nobody wants to play with him or include him in their birthday celebrations and other fun things.

One day, a new child arrives in the classroom and Brian is the first one who makes him feel welcome! This becomes the beginning of his first friendship.

As the mother with a shy child (make that extremely shy at times), I can absolutely relate to this story.

10. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are

spaghetti in a hot dog bun sensory processing disorder picture book

I absolutely adore this book and the title says it all: it is about having the courage to be different, just the way you are.

So there you have them! Ten picture books for children with sensory needs and/or a sensory processing disorder.

I hope you like them – and share them! – and please let me know if you have any ideas for a picture book for YOUR sensory needs child! I am an author and an illustrator and my greatest inspiration comes from the children themselves :).


Maria Ellis

Maria Ellis writes and illustrates books for children of all ages. She has a boy and a girl who keep her busy, inspired and incredibly happy. A former English teacher, she now writes, illustrates and runs Choupicos Press, whenever her kids are a) asleep, b) at school, c) otherwise occupied. She blogs about parenting, education and being a mom over 40.

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