Sara Webb: Disaster Area
Lothian Books 2006
ISBN: 0734409400 pp 175.
A fictional, engaging, compassionate and well researched insight into the world and emotions of teenagers growing up with a brother or sister with disabilities. In this story Sara has not one but two siblings with an intellectual disability. Her brother has autism and is obsessed with numbers and her sister who has Down syndrome is disorganised and infatuated with her red shoes.
The story successfully uses humour as a way to show the reality of family life and the effect of disability on siblings and family dynamics in a way that is easy to read and relate to.
Sara is "a gutsy young heroine who faces her personal problems and comes to an acceptance that her siblings are loved and valued members of her family". Her life is full of "disasters" that are both entertaining and enlightening, as she learns to cope with the different expectations from her family, taunts from the school bully, problems finding a partner for her school social, being bridesmaid at her sister's wedding in a very "uncool" outfit and a misunderstanding between friends.
As a parent of two children with disabilities and a daughter who is "special in a normal sort of way", Liz Wilks has first hand knowledge of Austism Spectrum Disorders and Down syndrome. She was inspired to write this novel when, in a fit of teenage angst, her daughter complained:
"Why do I have to have two? That's just plain bad management!"
Having been involved for many years in the Down Syndrome Association of Victoria and Autism Victoria and researching her ideas for the story with member families, it became clear that a book written for children around 10+ years might help other siblings of children with disability experiencing similar situations in their own lives.
"Much is written about the special needs of children with disabilities but the effect of disability on siblings and family dynamics is only now coming into focus. A significant number of families also have more than one child with a disability."
Although written with children in mind, the story also reflects the combined experiences of families who have travelled this path. Some of the disability issues raised (themes within the story include marriage, sexuality, relationships, bullying, integration, independence, school and siblings) and the ways in which Sara and her family cope with these challenges may also offer help and support to parents of children with disability who are currently having to make the same decisions within their own families.
Cost: AU$14.95 (with $3 from each book purchased through the order form going to the Down Syndrome Association of Victoria).