Waiting for Benjamin – Alexandra Jessup Altman
A fictional children’s story about a boy (Alexander) who has a younger, autistic brother (Benjamin). This appears to be a story aimed at younger children, probably no older than those in Primary School (up to aged 10/11). Alexander is very confused and embarassed by his brother’s behavior and is frustrated that Benjamin doesn’t want to do anything with him. Then his parents explain autism to him in the typical “his brain is different to ours” way.
Alexander then experiences jealousy over what his brother gets that he doesn’t, which I imagine is a fairly common occurence in a family with an autistic sibling. Alexander is only a young child himself and (as in real life) he doesn’t understand the difficulties that Benjamin has – all he sees is that Benjamin gets all the attention and rewards for doing things that he, Alexander, does all the time. This makes him angry. Then the book finishes with Alexander learning to deal with his emotions and develop more acceptance towards his brother.
This book is okay, but it’s not as good as Ian’s Walk. Whilst it does touch more on the negative emotions and the feelings of being left out that young siblings are likely to feel, there is also a big emphasis on the idea that everything gets better once Benjamin gets (ABA) therapy to learn to talk. One big problem with this is that it suggests the idea that the autistic child has to talk for a better relationship to form between siblings. What would a sibling feel then if their autistic sibling never learns to speak?
Is it worth reading?
Not so much, the general idea of difficulty in sibling relationships where one sibling is autistic is a matter that needs to address in books for younger children, but this book hasn’t done a great job in doing it. I would give this one a miss.