In 1992, when Nicholas Keenan was nine years old, he wrote a book about his brother, Owen, who is, “physically and intellectually disabled.” By using photos of the two brothers in typical situations, the book has a realism with which children can relate easily. A simple message is clear – this is my brother, this is what his day looks like, this is how I interact with him and I am glad he is a part of our family.
This book could be used in a few ways:
- Home Read it with your children to get a discussion going about special needs and disabilities – whether you have a child with a disability in your family or not. Starting a dialogue within your family is one way to handle uncomfortable situations and inappropriate language. It gives parents the opportunity to hear how their children feel about interacting with children with differences.
Although the book does not address difficult feelings or topics, it alludes to Owen needing a lift to get in and out of his bed, a wheelchair to get around and the brother helping out with feeding Owen. More thoughtful questions may be asked using the book as a starting point.
- School If appropriate, it may be helpful for teachers to read this book in class. Ben attends a different school than Logan, but I can see if they were at the same school, Logan would get a lot of questions about Ben. I am not sure how he would handle these questions on a regular basis.
- Community I have had several friends with children ask me how to talk to their children about Ben. Ben is very popular in our neighborhood. The little girls on the corner get excited watching out for his bus, other kids just want to say hello to him.
After a difficult situation with a parent who compared Ben to a character in the classic novel, Of Mice and Men, I gave this book to him to read to his children in hopes that he would find another way to educate his children about people with special needs.
This book is just another means to help children understand the world around them. When our children are toilet training, we read them books about the potty. When our children are entering Kindergarten, we read books about starting school. This is yet another way to introduce them to something they will experience and give them the tools to handle it with less fear, hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
Photographs by Ian Robertson