Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism

Waiting for Benjamin9780807573648_p0_v1_s260x420Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism

Alexandra Jessup Altman, Author

Susan Keeter, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Co., Fiction, 2008

Suitable for ages: 5-9

Themes: Living with a sibling with autism, Brothers, Emotional Challenges

Opening: “My name is Alexander and I was born first. Then came Benjamin. We live in a stone house with Mom and Dad. After Benjamin’s second birthday we all waited for him to talk, but he didn’t say any words. He just wiggled his fingers and rocked.”

Synopsis: Alexander’s younger brother has autism. He loves Benjamin, but finds it difficult to play with him when he stares blankly at the wall, rocks back and forth or wiggles his fingers. Even when Alexander builds a cool castle with blocks, Benjamin throws himself on the floor. Alexander is angry, frustrated and disappointed. After a visit to the doctor, Alexander’s  parents tell him that Benjamin’s brain works differently and that’s why he isn’t talking and playing. They explain that when Benjamin wiggles his fingers the doctor says it feels so good that he can’t hear anyone speaking. Alexander lays in the grass and wiggles his fingers, but it doesn’t feel good to him. He stares at the sky and wonders what Benjamin sees. Two teachers come to help Benjamin listen, talk and play. Alexander is a jealous that his brother gets special attention. He’s also embarrassed to invite friends to play at his house.

Why I like this book: This is a very helpful introduction book about autism. But, not all autistic children are the same and make the progress Benjamin does. I like how it focuses on the emotional challenges siblings face when they have an autistic brother or sister.  Many siblings experience anger, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, worry, and jealousy.  There is a Note from the author  at the beginning of the book for parents about siblings. Since this book is written for an older age group, I think it would be helpful to include information and discussion questions for siblings to help them share their experiences and feelings. Susan Keeter’s illustrations are very colorful, expressive and match the mood of the story.

Resource: Parents Helping Parents has interesting information on Sibling of Autistic Children Get a Chance to Express Themselves.  Check out the Autism Support Network  for sibling support.