“My Brother Charlie” – A Sister’s Take on Autism

Nearly 1.75 million Americans have Autism.  Two of those “Americans” are family friends – little guys who I have known since they were born, rocked in my arms and chased around the yard with my own son.  The boys are my son’s age and as my son grew more articulate and playful, they became more quiet and introspective.  Nine years later, they each are challenged with friendship and navigating new situations.  They are also kind and funny and very smart.

In the beginning, my son and I talked a lot about autism.  What?  Why?  How come? Having little to no experience with autism, I choose my words carefully – often wondering how to explain the unexplainable.   But, what if a child could explain autism to another child?  At 12 years old, Ryan Peete delivers her twin brother’s story of autism in a new children’s books, “My Brother Charlie.” It’s a simple and genuine story.

Ryan Peete wrote the story with her mother and actress Holly Robinson Peete to raise awareness and understanding of children with autism. Ryan’s authentic voice as a child tells both the difficult and hopeful story of her twin brother, Charlie.  She explains how hard it is when Charlie doesn’t play or speak or look at her.  She celebrates when Charlie unexpectedly tells her for the first time, “I love you.”

“My Brother Charlie” is a must-read for all pre-school children.  Told from the perspective of a child, the story explains autism in a way that kids can understand.  It also models how to be compassionate and patient with children who have autism without the preachy overtones that an adult might interject.

For the last week or so, this is the book my 5-year old daughter has chosen to read each night.  Even after finishing the story, she continues to ask me about Charlie and his sister.  She is captivated by them – the real brother and sister.  He is a kid with autism and she, a girl who writes.  “Turn the book over, Mommy,” my daughter commands.  On the backside, there are two photos of Charlie (whose real name is RJ) and Ryan, who  have each become role models for character and kindness in our house.

As April draws to a close, you still have time to enjoy a book of compassion and cup of cuddles with your “littles” in honor of National Autism Month.


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