Autism Resources

In this unit, we teach students that autism affects the brain, and that someone with autism will usually have challenges with their social communication skills, and with taking in and managing information from their five senses, and might have a strong special interest in one topic or use repetitive behaviors to manage stress.

Key themes:

  • Individuals with autism have a wide range of abilities and each individual with autism is unique, with a combination of strengths and challenges.
  • Individuals with autism often have difficulties with social communication skills, or the ways we interact and exchange information.
  • Many individuals with autism, but not all, have sensory processing issues, or difficulty taking in and managing information from their five senses.
  • Some individuals with autism may exhibit repetitive behaviors to cope with stress.
  • Some individuals with autism may have intense interest in a specific topic

Suggested reading – Two great books by one author!

Picture Book: Benji, the Bad Day and Me by Sally J. Pla

This book is available online for free through the video below.  Or we suggest reviewing our extensive guide to finding suggested reading titles online, for free or at very low cost, here

This book is great for grades K-5 (or older if you want to study the text and art as a way of conveying information and emotions).  Though it is an easy picture book, there are so many opportunities for discussion that it can be used with older children as well.  The Lee and Low Books Teacher’s Guide contains wonderful background info about autism, excellent discussion questions for different levels and interdisciplinary activity ideas.

Nothing seems to be going right for Sammy today. At school, he got in trouble for kicking a fence, then the cafeteria ran out of pizza for lunch. After he walks home in the pouring rain, he finds his autistic little brother Benji is having a bad day too. On days like this, Benji has a special play-box where he goes to feel cozy and safe. Sammy doesn’t have a special place, and he’s convinced no one cares how he feels or even notices him. But somebody is  noticing, and may just have an idea on how to help Sammy feel better.

In this tender story about siblings, author Sally J. Pla shares her experience of raising sons with different personality traits and needs. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me embraces the philosophy that we are all part of a wide spectrum of neurodiversity. And on those really bad, rotten days, you can always count on family to be there for you.

Enjoy this free picture book read aloud with author Sally J. Pla!


Chapter Book:The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

For Grades 4 and up – this is a wonderful read aloud with so much opportunity for discussion.

Cover art for The Someday Birds book shows a blue-green background, white writing for "the someday" and the word Birds spelled out in twigs with birds on them. A small camper van on a road with pine trees goes across the top

This book is also available as a free e-book through the Minuteman Library Network, at this link: Reserve by placing a hold on the book, and you will be notified when the e-book is available to download. We also suggest checking with your school’s librarian for other free ways to access this book.  Or we suggest reviewing our extensive guide to finding suggested reading titles online, for free or at very low cost, here

The Someday Birds is a debut middle grade novel perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree, filled with humor, heart, and chicken nuggets.

Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan.

When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.

Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a tale that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.

Curriculum Guide for Educators and Readers:

And here’s a fun book trailer to go with the book:



Offline Activity

Image shows red, yellow, pink and blue balloons, filled with Playdoh with faces drawn onto them and propped up.

Make Your Own Stress Ball

We all take in information through our senses to help us understand the world around us.  And we all experience moments when our senses are overwhelmed with information and we feel like we want to make it stop or change.  Some of us are more bothered than others for any particular sense. People with autism may experience this sensitivity more frequently and intensely and cannot easily “turn it off” or ignore it. 

One method anyone can try to help handle too much sensory information, or feelings of worry or stress, is by squeezing a stress ball. Doing this can help your body to release tension. The motion of squeezing acts as a reminder to relax the muscles that feel tight when you’re anxious or worried about something. 

Directions and a demonstration video can be found at this link:

These homemade stress balls are made using regular balloons and Play-Doh.

Materials Needed

The great thing about making these DIY stress balls is that you can typically buy everything you’ll need from a dollar store so they’re very inexpensive to make.

  • 1 can of Play-Doh for each stress ball you plan make
  • 12″ Latex Balloons
  • Sharpie Marker

How To Make A Stress Ball With A Balloon

  1. Roll out your play dough into a long, thin line. (I use one tub of dough per balloon)
  2. Stretch your balloon as wide as you can and stuff the play dough inside. (Adults can do this themselves, but kids will need help with this part.)
  3. Press the filled balloon to make it flat and get as much air out as possible. Tie it off with a knot.
  4. Add a face using your sharpie and you’re finished!

Web-based resource: I’m Here video by Fablevision and SARRC


This short film, based on an original story and art by Peter H. Reynolds and produced by FableVision, movingly conveys the loneliness that a child on the autism spectrum often experiences, and the life-changing impact each of us can have when we reach out and embrace them. FableVision created the film for SARRC (Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center). FableVision CEO Peter H. Reynolds, NY Times best-selling children’s author/illustrator, illustrated the film. The film includes a powerful musical score by Ruth Mendelson. The storybook edition of I’M HERE is published by Simon & Schuster.