Autistic Communities in Public Libraries

English / Français / Español / Deutsch / 中文 / 日本語 / 한국어 / עברית / فارسی / العربية / русский / Azərbaycanca / Català / Česky / Eesti / Eλληνικά / Filipino / Indonesian / Íslenska / Italiano / Kurdí / Magyar / Nederlands / Polski / Português / Português brasileiro / Slovene / Suomi / Türkçe / Bosanski-Hrvatski-Srpski

The aim of this project is to educate the general English speaking adult public about the existence of the neurodiversity paradigm and autistic communities, and to create a display zone free of pathologizing language, within the space of public libraries.

I have chosen a small number of books written by Autistic authors who espouse the ideas of the neurodiversity paradigm. Quotes are drawn from these books to illustrate lived experience.

The project introduces the general public to Autistic ways of being, in non-pathologizing language from the Autistic perspective. We have created posters which can be downloaded below. In addition to the posters, the physical display consists of books, a list of recommended books and Autistic community website links, and a sample print-out of the booklet ‘Understanding The Autistic Mind’.

Slides for the posters can also be downloaded and adapted for future use by whoever is interested. We are also collaborating with translators to translate the content into other languages so it can be reused abroad. We hope that this project will help educate the public and further advance Autistic collaboration.

– Sarah Bettin

Timeline of Autistic Lived Experience

Autistic Peoples

Autistic Voices


It has been an interesting and well received display and I’m pleased that you are happy with how things have gone. I will send a photo of the display with your request and contact details to my colleagues who manage community libraries and our Central Library so they can contact you directly.
– Ngā mihi Fiona

Fiona Kralicek, RLIANZA | Pouārahi – Manager Community Place Waiheke Library | Waiheke Island Local Board

We’ve had somne great engagement with the display so far 😊
Have a great day | Kia pai to ra

Lena Kovac, Programme & Events Librarian Whangaparāoa Library

Thank you both for such an amazing event! It was a successful event and Kathy really enjoyed the event too, she shared some of her knowledge that she gained with the rest of us. The discussions going on during the event seemed very lively and everyone was really engaged with the talk. Would you be happy for me to share this photo of you and Kathy on our facebook page? 😊 Thank you both again for holding the workshop and for your lovely display. If you have any other things you’d like to share with our little community, please feel free to send it along and I’ll share it 😊
Ngā mihi nui Michalea

Michalea Seto (she/her), Senior Library and Council Services Assistant – Ethnic Communities, Ngā Pātaka Kōrero o Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland Libraries

Many thanks for travelling from Waiheke to present your talk on Autism at Albany Village Library on Wednesday. A number of the people who attended had travelled across town showing how much people need information and an opportunity to talk on this subject. The discussion after the talk was evidence of this.
Many thanks,
Ngā mihi | kind regards, Sarah

Sarah Powell Pouārahi – Manager Community Place |Upper Harbour & Hibiscus and Bays North | Albany Library Ngā Pātaka Kōrero o Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland Libraries

It was so wonderful to have both of y’all here. I am glad it was a valuable experience for you as you continue to show the display and run your workshop 😊 It was all very interesting and valuable information. I will keep an ear out if other libraries would like to have a display as such at their location. Many thanks and all the best of luck with future displays and workshops!
Many kind regards,
Cristen and the Pt Chevalier Library team

Cristen Poole | Librarian Programmes and Events Albert-Eden Local Board | Point Chevalier Library
Ngā Pātaka Kōrero o Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland Libraries

Source Files

  1. Timeline
  2. Autistic Peoples
  3. Autistic Voices
  4. Slides

Additional Reading

These files can be printed and made available to the public:

Stories and guidance

  1. From Aotearoa
  2. For Whose Benefit
  3. Understanding the Autistic Mind


  1. Book list
  2. Check-list : How to Select a Therapist for Autistic Children
  3. Contacts and resources


Ongoing – coming to a library near you!

Takaanini Community Hub, Auckland (9 to 16 October 2022)

Te Manawa Library, Westgate, Auckland (26 July to 14 August 2022)

Albany Village Library, Auckland (13 to 21 July 2022)

Manurewa Library, Auckland (22 June to 6 July 2022)

Pt Chevalier Library, Auckland, Aotearoa (May 2022)

Whangaparaoa Library, Auckland, Aotearoa (May 2022)

Waiheke Library, Auckland, Aotearoa (April 2022)

Initial Design

Organised and curated by: Sarah Bettin

Artwork: Ulku Mazlum

Quality Assurance: Sully the Cat

Layout: Jorn Bettin

Duration: 21 March – 10 April 2022

Location: Waiheke Library, Auckland, Aotearoa

Electronic versions of all the posters including the source files can be downloaded from this web page.


  • 1 x fold-up board: 140cm high x 120cm wide + 140cm high x 90cm wide
  • 1 x single board: 120cm high x 90cm wide
  • 1 x low table for books and print-outs
  • TV with plug-in for memory stick for wmv file.


  • The displays will be made up mainly of quotes from autistic authors.
  • Handouts with some links to autistic community
  • Handouts with a list of recommended books with my review
  • Handouts of brochure Understanding The Autistic Mind
  • Screen showing short film about Campaign in NZ to Stop Conversion therapies for Autistic Children

Topics of the displays:

  • Timeline of events in the autism industry, autistic advocacy, and the neurodiversity movement
  • Autistic Ways of Being: Definitions by the Autistic Community
  • Pathology Paradigm and its language
  • Approaches to Disability (Medical / Social Model / Human Rights)
  • Neurodiversity
  • Neurodiversity Paradigm
  • Neurodiversity Movement
  • Myths about Autism debunked
  • International Campaigns to stop behaviourist therapies

Neuroqueer Heresis : Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities, 2021

by Nick Walker

The work of queer autistic scholar Nick Walker has played a key role in the evolving discourse on human neurodiversity. This book collects a decade’s worth of Dr. Walker’s most influential writings. She is a professor of psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies, and senior instructor at the Aiki Arts Center in Berkeley.

A Field Guide to Earthlings : An Autistic / Asperger View of Neurotypical Behavior, 2010

by Ian Ford (now Star Ford)

This book reveals psychological patterns of neurotypical (NT) humans, from an autistic perspective. This books shows how and why NTs live in complex competitive social structures, why they have elaborate mating rituals, how they display feelings for intentional effect.

This is Sarah’s all-time favourite.

Through the Eyes of Aliens: A Book About Autistic People, 1998

by Jasmine Lee O’Neill

This is a rich and positive description of how it feels to be autistic and how friends, family and the professionals that work with autistic people can be more sensitive to their needs. Jasmine Lee O’Neill, autistic herself, perceives the creativity, imagination and keenly-felt sensory world of the autistic person as gifts. She argues that ‘normalizing’ autistic people – pushing them into behaving in a way that is alien to their true natures – is not just ineffective but wrong.

The Reason I Jump, 2013

by Naoki Higashida

The author is autistic and wrote this biography when he was 13-year old. He is non-speaking and expresses himself using a computer and an alphabet grid.

Drama Queen: One Autistic Woman and a Life of Unhelpful Labels, A Memoir, 2022

by Sarah Gibbs

This is the story of one woman trying to fit into a world that has often tried to reject her and, most importantly, it’s about a life of labels, and the joy of ripping them off one by one.

Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline, 2020

Edited by Steven Kapp

A collection of essays. This book describes some of the key actions that have defined the autism rights branch of the neurodiversity movement since it organized into a unique community over 20 years ago. Only 2 of the authors are not autistic themselves.

This book can be downloaded for free in PDF format.

No You Don’t: Essays from an Unstrange Mind, 2013

by Sparrow Rose Jones (now Max Sparrow)

This collection of raw, honest, emotional essays describe the pitfalls and joys of an autistic life. The author is a popular autistic blogger and her title essay, No You Don’t, won her a loyal readership who admired her courage to share some of the darkest, most difficult times in her life.

Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness, 2017

by Melanie Yergeau

Using a queer theory framework, Yergeau notes the stereotypes that deny autistic people their humanity and the chance to define themselves while also challenging cognitive studies scholarship and its reification of the neurological passivity of autistics. She also critiques early intensive behavioral interventions—which have much in common with gay conversion therapy—and questions the ableist privileging of intentionality and diplomacy in rhetorical traditions.

Being Autistic: Nine adults share their journeys from discovery to acceptance, 2015

Edited by Carline Hearst

This collection of essays can be downloaded for free in PDF format.

A Mismatch of Salience: Explorations of the Nature of Autism from Theory to Practice, 2017

By Dr. Damian E M Milton

The book ranges from discussing the theories (or rather, lack of theories) that exist around autism, to what Damian describes as a mismatch of salience. Key to this view is what Damian describes as the double empathy problem, which demonstrates that empathy is a two-way street.

Sarah has not yet read this book, but it has been warmly recommended to her by a trusted friend.

The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless patterns of human limitations, 2021

by Jorn Bettin

Through the lenses of evolutionary biology and cultural evolution, small groups of 20 to 100 people are the primary organisms within human society – in contrast to individuals, corporations, and nation states. The implications for our civilisation are profound. Humanity is experiencing a phase transition that is catalysed by a combination of new communication technologies, toxic levels of social inequalities, and existential crises. It is time to put ubiquitous global digital connectivity to good use, to curate and share the lessons from marginalised perspectives, and to reflect critically on the human evolutionary journey and on the possibilities and limitations of human agency.

Avoiding Anxiety in Autistic Adults: A Guide for Autistic Wellbeing, 2022

by Dr Luke Beardon

This is the only book in Sarah’s list which was not written by an officially Autistic author. However it is included in this list as it is so well written.