Mark Arnold recommends books to improve your skills and knowledge in supporting children and youth with additional needs


I’ve been asked a few times for book tips to help with understanding, supporting, and working with children and young people with additional needs; so here is a list of some of the books that I’ve found helpful over the years. There are many more that I could have added, but I hope these help you and the people you serve too! 

Please note, some of these books are only available second hand now, but there are lots of both in-building and online places that you can still get them from. For more from me, you can go here. 

General accessibility and inclusion books… 

Making Church Accessible to All: Including Disabled People In Church Life’ – Tony Phelps-Jones – ISBN 978-0-857461575 

Many churches are largely unaware of the presence of people with learning disabilities in their community and their needs; may be unprepared to welcome people with learning disabilities and ill-equipped to teach and disciple them in the Christian faith; and can be unaware of how much including people with learning disabilities will enrich the church experience for all church members. This book will address all of these issues! 

‘Enabling Church: A Bible-Based Resource Towards The Full Inclusion Of Disabled People’ – Gordon Temple and Lin Ball – ISBN 978-0281066490 

This rich resource book for church leaders, congregations and small groups challenges us to get to grips with what the Bible says about disability - and what the Church could do in response. Themes of understanding, inclusion and interdependency are explored through discussion, prayer, worship, hands-on activities and listening to the authentic voices of disabled people.  

‘Love Surpassing Knowledge’ – Naomi Graham – ISBN 978-1-908393838 

Creating an accessible community which reflects God’s heart for all people. Accessibility is so much more than ramps and physical access. This book explores how we can enable everyone to have a deep knowledge of God’s love – a love that surpasses the things we can cognitively know or explain. A love that does not depend on our own ability, but entirely on the character of God. A love that sees value in each and every individual, no matter what the world sees. 

Multi-Sensory Ideas For Worship – Irene Smale – ISBN 978-1-842913925 
Worship and singing are often used synonymously, but this book looks at how we can worship using all of our senses. Divided into five sections – see, hear, smell, touch, and taste – Irene provides activities that can be used in a variety of settings. 

Autism specific books… 

‘The Reason I Jump’ – Naoki Higashida – ISBN 978-1-444-77675-1 

Written by an Autistic boy when aged 13, telling his story and describing the world as he experiences it. Helpful in catching a glimpse into an Autistic child’s mind. There’s a best-selling film based on this book too. 

 ‘Work In Progress: The Story Behind The Songs’ – Kat Mills – ISBN 978-1-9160-7440-8 

Written by an adult who identifies as Autistic and also has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), sharing the related stories behind some of her highly acclaimed and successful worship songs. Kat is a friend and this book helps in understanding what makes her tick. Although based around her songs (which are great), the book also gives real insight into her neurodiversity. 

‘A Boy Made Of Blocks’ – Keith Stuart – ISBN 978-0-751563276 

Inspired by the authors own experiences with his own son, this is a moving, hilarious and most of all true-to-life story of love, family, Minecraft and Autism. 

‘Forest School And Autism – A Practical Guide’ – Michael James – ISBN 978-1-78592-291-6 

Michael James runs his own Forest School in Somerset. He has 15+ years’ experience working as a support worker for Autistic people and is a member of the Forest School Association. I think there is much here that can inform the church. 

Books to help families of children with additional needs… 

‘One Thousand Gifts’ – Ann Voskamp – ISBN 978-0-310321910 

A beautifully practical guide to living a life of joy, especially when that seems hard to find, this book invites you to see God’s everyday blessings, discovering that in giving thanks for the life we have we can find the life we always wanted. A helpful resource for parents. 

‘The Skies I’m Under’ – Rachel Wright – ISBN 978-0-993491504 

Rachel’s personal and evocative narrative exposes the heart of being forced to live an unexpected life. Her story will make you laugh and cry as she shares her experiences of grappling with healing, forgiveness, grief, and her faith. A parent’s story that will be helpful to other parents.  

‘My Diary’ – Emily Owen – ISBN 978-1-788931663 

A real-life story of difficulty, disability, and hope. It covers issues such as self-image, self-worth, loss, faith, perseverance, and mental health. Questions at the end of the book help to start conversations around these topics. It is suitable for readers in KS2 and is a great resource for either children experiencing disability or their siblings. 

Oh, and finally, there’s a book that I wrote… 

‘How To Include Autistic Children And Young People in Church’ – Mark Arnold – ISBN – 978-1-788272094 

This practical guide provides useful advice on how to make church a space where autistic children and young people can thrive. It urges children’s, youth, and families’ workers to be agents of change within both their own ministries and the wider church community, building a better place of inclusion, belonging and spiritual development for all.  See more here: