THE AMAZINGLY AWESOME AMANI
The inspiration behind "The Amazingly Awesome Amani"
Inspired by the life of Trey Amani Samuels (pictured left), "The Amazingly Awesome Amani" follows the adventures of a boy who takes on life's challenges by day, but is a perfectly "normal" avenger in his dreams. Trey was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 5. Eventually he was given an additional diagnosis of Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder. There was finally an answer to so many questions. Trey attended four different schools in as many years as his parents struggled to find an educational environment that suited his needs. Jamiyl & Tracy-Ann were blessed to be referred to The School for Language and Communication Development (SLCD) in 2014. Based in Glen Cove, Long Island SLCD, now Tiegerman School, provided Trey with extensive speech therapy, occupational therapy and, most importantly, loving, patient teachers who afforded him genuine individualized attention. Today Trey has improved dramatically from a child who could not communicate simple things like if he had a stomach ache to verbalizing in complete sentences on a range of topics from what he did in gym class, what happened on his school bus, to what kind of drink he wants from Starbucks.
"The Amazingly Awesome Amani" children's book is based on the newly-released short story "The Amazing Adventures of Awesome Amani" (pictured left). Although this book chronicles the fictional adventures of the pre-teen hero, it also follows the real life journey of "Mommy" and "Daddy" as they navigate through the stages of denial, self-blame, anger, frustration, discovery, joy, pride, dedication, and determination that comes with caring for a child with special needs. Trey was able to read words as a two year old, but was unable to comprehend what he read. His only speech at that age consisted of one word answers and echoing the dialogue of cartoon characters he watched on television. He struggled to make eye contact with other people who spoke to him and exhibited coping behaviors such as hand movements and sounds. Trey bounced from private, public, and Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens New York, before landing at Tiegerman School (www.tiegerman.org).
Trey's mommy Tracy-Ann is a social worker by trade. It was a mix of her maternal instincts and training that deduced that something was wrong with her son. It was also her idea to create a children's book based on their ordeal feeling it would be of greater impact to the public. Referred to Mascot Books by a fellow colleague and author, Jamiyl & Tracy-Ann began the process of turning a part of the longer book into a version that would be palatable for children. Over six months later the first book in "The Amazingly Awesome Amani" series was born. Upon its release and subsequent book signings, "Mommy" and "Daddy" received great feedback from other families who were open to sharing their own stories of dealing with special needs children. The couple aim to raise awareness about autism and other spectrum, language, and communication disorders through the use of the book series, speaking engagements, and community outreach.