These Parents of a Child with Autism are ASD Advocates and Authors of The Amazingly Sensational Kids Books Series
As a parent of a child with Autism, it is a challenge to find children’s books that are adventurous, courageous, and hopeful. While we may find a great book — often they are usually a one-off. This is why when there is a series such as The Amazingly Sensational Kids series; it is going on the bookshelf.
Follow Amani Taylor, who turns into Awesome Amani while he dreams away and navigates life as a true hero in books such as The Amazingly Awesome Amani (Ages 4 +), The Amazingly Awesome Amani Takes on Jitters & Fear (Ages 4 +), The Sensationally Super Sandy (Ages 4 +), and chapter book, The Amazing Adventures of Awesome Amani for ages 10 and up.
I touched base with Tracy-Ann Samuels, co-author of the T.A.S.K. media superhero children’s book series on their child Trey and, of course, The Amazingly Sensational Kids book series.
Your son Trey is on the Autism spectrum. Can you share how you and Jamiyl came to be founders of T.A.S.K media and author The Amazingly Sensational Kids series?
We started our children’s book series for many reasons. Our son Trey was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was 5. Even before the diagnosis, he experienced bullying and feeling like an outsider during his grade school experience as he struggled to fit in unbeknownst to us all that he was autistic. Raising a child on the spectrum isn’t easy and autism is not discussed enough in the Black community, so we wanted to raise awareness for this topic as well as boost Trey’s self-esteem. Secondly, our daughter Aja, who is the inspiration for our latest title “The Sensationally Super Sandy”, had a lot of questions about why Trey would not talk to her when she spoke to him, why it seemed as if he was laughing at her, why he would make certain hand movements, and, more importantly, why it seemed that we loved Trey more than her. We believed that we were not the only family dealing with these issues, so we released the first book, “The Amazingly Awesome Amani” in April 2018 to coincide with World Autism Awareness Month and spread awareness about children on the spectrum.
T.A.S.K. is not only a combination of the titles of our children’s books but also an acronym that stands for Transparency, Advocacy, Sensitivity, and Knowledge. We wanted to use our books to educate parents as well as children who may not be privy to the information and resources available about Autism and other spectrum disorders. We went through a stage where we did not know where to begin to service Trey because we were not aware of the symptoms of ASD. We did not want others to experience the same ordeal.
What can children who have and do not have ASD learn from the books?
Children who read our books can learn that it is ok to be friends with kids that appear to be different. They learn compassion, self-confidence, kindness, how to conquer fear of new places, the importance of love, reassurance, and understanding of the plight of others.
We feel it is just as important to educate children and adults who are not on the spectrum because it is easy to separate yourself from the issues if it does not immediately affect you. We want people to be empathetic and unafraid to have their children interact with kids on the spectrum. We also want adults to be able to approach a friend or family member if they believe a child may be on the spectrum.
I am a parent with a young child with severe Autism; what advice can you share on navigating the learning regressions that some ASD children have?
The advice I would give is to be and remain consistent with your involvement with the team that is servicing your child, whether it be speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavioral therapists. There cannot be any gaps in services. Make sure you are trained to know how to handle your child when the treatment team is not available. Continue to engage your child when he/she is not in school. I made sure I stayed on top of Trey’s school work especially when I learned that some of his teachers were not holding him accountable for incorrect work.
I found some teachers were giving Trey a pass because they felt since he is a special-needs child he would not grasp the work. I advised them not to underestimate the ability of Trey. I let the teachers know that he is willing to learn. Once you teach him the correct way, he will do the work. Now those teachers communicate with me through e-mail regularly about his classwork, homework and study guides for his tests.
Can you share on your volunteer advocacy for Autism Speaks nonprofit and the proposed bill that will help autistic children during the pandemic?
I became an Autism Speaks Ambassador not because I want them to find a cure for autism, but rather I want to contribute to advocating on behalf of autistic children and adults. I am now raising a teenager who needs to learn how to function on his own one day — the more our society understands how to interact with, accept and support autistic individuals, the better the world will be for autistic citizens. As an ambassador, I recently led a virtual advocacy event called Hill Day to discuss the COVID HCBS (home and community-based services) Relief Act with NY Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Congress Rep Gregory Meeks. While all Americans are facing unprecedented difficulties, individuals with autism and their families are facing additional burdens and needs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being quarantined means that your child and family may have difficulties continuing to get the services needed for your disability because you cannot leave the home. The COVID HCBS bill would create a temporary, increased federal matching percentage of 10 percent to help states improve home and community-based services for families by investing in things like hazard pay and paid sick/medical/family leave for direct care workers; specialized training for family caregivers; HCBS waitlist reduction; information and public education; and assistive technologies, staffing and other costs incurred by HCBS programs. I am very proud of the work that we are doing to help the autistic population in New York.
The T.A.S.K. book series can be found on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com. Learn more at theamazinglysensationalkids.com