Colonie Central High School art teacher Lisa Benanto was having a hard time explaining her son Brandon’s autism to her daughter Katie, so she decided to write a book about it to help her understand.
“I constantly looked for books to use for my daughter, who was at the time 3 to 4 years old, to describe her brother’s disability,” said Benanto. “My intended audience is for small children because they just don’t have any books for them.”
Benanto wrote the book “I Have a Brother” from her daughter’s point of view, simply detailing different interactions she has had with her brother where she starts to notice he acts differently than other children. For example, she and her brother would be playing together, but Katie will notice her brother will not look at her in the eyes.
“He doesn’t look at my eyes when I say, ‘Look at my eyes. I’m talking to you,’” Benanto said, describing a scene in the book. “Or ‘Mommy said he’s like Peter Pan, it’s hard for him to grow up.’”
The book also contains questions at the end, which Benanto hopes will spark a discussion between the family and the child and help them understand autism a little more. Benanto said her household is very open about Brandon’s disorder, which is autism spectrum disorder, and it has helped her daughter have a better understanding of what it entails.
“She knows that she’s good at dance and making friends but knows her brother struggles with making friends while he’s good at math,” Benanto said.
Benanto had to find time to write the book, as she had to work on it in between teaching, taking care of the kids and bringing them to the many activities they are involved in. So when she would take her kids to swimming practice, she would have a roll of paper in front of her where she would be writing out the story and drawing the pictures.