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A teacher’s act of charity

CCHS art instructor looks to help younger children understand autism

Lisa Benanto wrote the book "I Have a Brother" from her daughter's point of view. The book tries to explain autism to young children

Lisa Benanto wrote the book "I Have a Brother" from her daughter's point of view. The book tries to explain autism to young children

Katie and Brandon both got used to seeing her work on the book during her free time, Benanto said, and they were actually very involved in the writing process.

“I showed them the book and said, ‘This is you and this is you,’” Benanto said. “I read that to my daughter and she thinks it’s cooler now.”

All of the writing and the drawings were done by Benanto, but she said she did get some help with the layout from her nephew, who is getting his degree in graphic arts at the University at Buffalo.

Benanto went to Bokland Custom Visuals in Albany, where she said she scanned all of the pictures she was going the use for the book. She then decided to self-publish and brought the book to a local printer where she said it was printed at cost. She spent around $500 to $600.

Once the book was printed, she began handing it out to various different organizations and charities that deal with children with autism. Benanto also gave one to every principal in the South Colonie Central School District.

Kristin Scott, a kindergarten teacher at Milton South Elementary School, said she was the teacher of both Katie and Brandon and said the book does hold some personal meaning for her. She said the questions that are in the back of the book are very helpful to families trying to start a dialogue about autism and said that it is good to have something younger children can relate to.

“The philosophy is to be open with children,” Scott said about talking to children about autism. “It’s being mainstreamed into the classroom more. They need to learn they don’t have to be afraid of a person with Aspergers. They just learn differently.”

Benanto said she has already written two other books and is almost done with the second one. She wants to continue to write these types of books for children in the kindergarten and preschool ages. Her hope at this point is to find a publisher.

“I’m using a gift I have and am giving back to the community,” Benanato said. “It’s an act of charity.”

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