Listen to today's episode, "Getting Kids' Wheels Turning about Disabilities with Shameka Andrews" as Disability Advocate and Consultant and kids' book author, Shameka Andrews joins Dori Durbin to share how her own observations, her life with Spina Bifida, and her passion to empower disabled individuals led to her creation of her own kids picture book, "Butterfly on Wheels." In this episode, hear Shameka share:
* Her desire to "able" disabled children and people
* Her life with Spina Bifida
* A sample of her kids' book
* How to handle questions about disabilities
* How Shameka uses her book
* The value of having a kids' book in her business
* 2 reasons experts should have their own kids' book
Did you love this episode? Discover more here:
More about Shameka Andrews:
Shameka Andrews is the community outreach coordinator for the Self Advocacy Association of NYS. She also has extensive consulting experience with Disability Empowerment Consulting, where she provides disability workshops on self-care, self-advocacy and disability awareness.
In 2006 she won the title of Ms. Wheelchair NY and has been the coordinator of the program since 2013. In 2017 she wrote her first children’s book: Butterfly on Wheels.
Currently she serves on the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Developmental Disability Advisory Council for OPWDD, and the NYS Human Rights Disability Committee.
Buy her book:
or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
More about Dori Durbin:
Dori Durbin is a Christian wife, mom, author, illustrator, and a kids’ book coach who after experiencing a life-changing illness, quickly switched gears to follow her dream. She creates kids’ books to provide a fun and safe passageway for kids and parents to dig deeper and experience empowered lives. Dori also coaches non-fiction authors and aspiring authors to “kid-size” their content into informational and engaging kids’ books!
Buy Dori's Kids' Books:
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The Power of Kids’ Books podcast by Dori Durbin
“Getting Kids’ Wheels Turning About Disabilities, with Shameka Williams”
[00:00:03.210] - Dori Durbin
What if kids books were recognized as the powerful catalyst that empowered kids lives? The doors to changing kids futures would be blown wide open. Welcome to The Power of Kids Books, a weekly podcast hosted by me, kids' book coach, Dori Durbin.
[00:00:20.920] - Dori Durbin
Join me every Tuesday and explore how kids books can intentionally create generational change. I've invited experts to share their own kids books and the impact of their kids size expertise on their clients and the experts themselves. Aspiring kid book authors and parents listen here to change the way you see and use kids books forever.
[00:00:52.110] - Dori Durbin
It can be tricky to teach our kids how to appreciate other people, but even trickier when we don't let them ask questions. In my next episode of The Power of Kids Books, Shameka Andrews reads her book "Butterfly on Wheels". Shameka is a disability advocate and consultant. Shameka spent many years educating others on what it's like to be a disabled individual and empowering those who are. I think you'll enjoy our time with Shameka Andrews. Welcome to The Power of Kids Books podcast, where we believe kids books are a catalyst for generational change for kids. I'm your host, Dori Durbin, and today we have with us Shamika Andrews. Shamika, hello and welcome.
[00:01:40.350] - Shameka Andrews
Hello, thank you for having me. Glad to be here.
[00:01:43.810] - Dori Durbin
Oh, we're so glad that you could be here. All the way from New York.
[00:01:48.770] - Shameka Andrews
Yes, very cold in New York and.
[00:01:53.430] - Dori Durbin
In Michigan,too--believe me! For sure. So I'm going to give you a chance here, Shamika, to just talk a little bit about yourself, what you do and what your business is.
[00:02:04.230] - Shameka Andrews
Sure. So I'm shamika Andrews. I am a disability advocate and consultant. I provide workshops and trainings for individuals with disabilities, their families and community organizations to empower and enhance the lives of people with disabilities generally. My workshops fall into three categories self adequacy, self care, and Disability Awareness. I believe that people with disabilities should be a part of every aspect of life. So every area that I work on within my business is all about enhancing the lives of people with disabilities and making sure that they have access to every area of life.
[00:02:53.780] - Dori Durbin
It's amazing. I bet you've had a lot of clients that you've been able to help in many ways then.
[00:03:00.330] - Shameka Andrews
Yes, I love the work that I do because I get to work with individuals themselves, I get to work with families and then I also get to work with businesses to help them to be more accessible to people with disabilities and kind of think about things that they may not have thought about. So I love the variety of things that I get to do all in the name of enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. My business is called Disability Empowered Consulting. Like I said, I love what I get to do and to make the lives of people with disabilities better myself. Being a person with a disabilities so that's why it's very important to me. Yeah.
[00:03:52.090] - Dori Durbin
And I'm assuming if it's okay for me to say you have spina bifida, right?
[00:03:57.440] - Shameka Andrews
That is correct, yes. I was born with spina bifida, the incomplete development of the spinal column. So everybody born with spina bifida has what's called a lesion along their spinal column, which is the severity of their disability. Mine happens to be in the middle of my spinal column, so it affects the lower of my body the most. I do use a power chair to get around. That's the main way I get around and every day. But I try not to let that stop me too much from getting what I want to get done.
[00:04:35.590] - Dori Durbin
I think it sounds like you keep yourself pretty busy. From what I can tell, between your work and your authoring, and I saw somewhere you were missed. What was the title? Miss Wheelchair in New York?
[00:04:49.050] - Shameka Andrews
Yes. Ms. Wheelchair New York is a program that is an empowerment and advocacy program for women who use wheelchairs. And I've been a volunteer since 2004. I was a title holder in 2006, and I've been coordinator since 2013.
[00:05:07.210] - Dori Durbin
Wow, that's great. That is amazing. So you're empowering lots and lots of women everywhere and just families, too, probably, right?
[00:05:17.350] - Shameka Andrews
Yes, we work with families that are trying to support their family members with disabilities, whether it's to find housing or to find services or to find recreational opportunities, whatever they're looking for, for their family member.
[00:05:37.710] - Dori Durbin
Now, with your book, you have your book Butterfly on Wheels, which is a children's picture book, correct?
[00:05:46.110] - Shameka Andrews
Yes, it is a children's book. It's loosely based on events of my own life, but just adapted for children. It's all about celebrating who you are and all of the things that make us who we are. There's one line in the book that says these wheels are just one part of me. So that's just having this disability. It's a part of me, but it's one part of me. So there's many things that make me who I am.
[00:06:21.450] - Dori Durbin
I would love to hear some of it, if you're willing and ready to do that for us.
[00:06:27.390] - Shameka Andrews
Yes, I would love to do that. So here's a little bit in the book. It says, all caterpillars have dreams to one day find their wings and become butterflies. This little caterpillar with wheels is no exception. Read, as you find out one day that this little caterpillar finds hears a little voice that helps her along our way. And guess who that voice was? This caterpillar wanted to find her wings and love to sing, but she didn't understand why the other caterpillars didn't want to sing with her. So one day, as she went away around her way, she ran away deep into the forest as she laid there wondering why the other caterpillars would not play with her. But as she learned along her journey that each of us has a caterpillar deep inside us waiting to come out. And this is what makes all of us special. You and me have things that makes us special, and we should celebrate those things no matter what our differences.
[00:08:06.890] - Dori Durbin
I love it. I love it. Do you have one really key moment when you decided that you wanted to write this book and what that purpose was?
[00:08:20.370] - Shameka Andrews
It was really for a while, as I grew up, I kept a lot of journals about just growing up with a disability and just being a part of my family and dealing with a lot of different things, with going to school and things not being accessible and people not understanding why I did things the way I did. So it was really a way for me to kind of cope with a lot of things that were happening around me and just came to a point where as I was going about my life and things, and people were like, you should really share these stories with people and they could help others. And it was never really my goal to share those things with people, but the more I talked to people about the stories and about the things that I was writing, they were like, you should do this. And finally I got the opportunity through a local publisher here who was doing some classes and writing and things like that to make it come to fruition and put those words out into the public and share those stories. So it was really about really seeing how these stories, even the ones for children, could help children that were like me, or adults that were like me, or teenagers that were like me that may not have had people that they could look up to or stories that they could relate to.
[00:10:15.990] - Shameka Andrews
So I felt that after thinking about it, that it was important to be able to have those stories, because I didn't really grow up with hearing stories about other people with disabilities or other children with disabilities. I was always the one in the class or whatever. So I think that really helped me to decide that, yeah, children with disabilities should have stories that they can see themselves into.
[00:10:53.730] - Dori Durbin
Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. I think it's becoming more common to see books now, but it is definitely an area that has a gap, and I think especially when they're young, you experienced your whole life with this, but maybe you were the first person that another child had ever seen with a disability before. And so having that the book to explain it, the book to kind of cope and have some of those emotions that in the questions. I heard questions when you're reading. I was, oh, yes. Why is it that they're not doing XYZ with me? Why is it that they're maybe timid around me? Those questions that come up that you had are really important for kids who haven't met anyone like you before?
[00:11:50.210] - Shameka Andrews
[00:11:52.050] - Dori Durbin
Now, I'm curious, have you been able to read this into any classrooms with kids?
[00:11:58.550] - Shameka Andrews
Well, before COVID I did a lot more in person readings and book events. But since COVID I've done a few online kind of like this, but not as many since COVID unfortunately haven't been doing. But in the last few months I've actually been booking some events again. So I do have a couple coming up that will be booked in the springtime and stuff. So I'm hoping in the spring and the summer that I'll be able to do more and I do plan on doing some more writing and hoping really to come up with a series that will be for children, but also a series that will be for teens as well. So those are just some of my goals for continuing to do some more writing.
[00:13:06.410] - Dori Durbin
That is awesome. I think you're right. COVID kind of put a kibosh on a lot of the in person events and even just getting authors in front of kids. But hopefully that will be a door that's opened up again for you. And I just imagined these kids having so many questions for you, especially with the opportunity to ask a person who's an author who's willing to share her story. Did you find that when you were at the in person email?
[00:13:31.250] - Shameka Andrews
Yes, when I was able to read to kids in person, it was really great. I was able to work with some local libraries and do some big events that we all around because my book focuses on a butterfly. There's so many things and educational materials that we were able to do with the library. And so I did a bunch of different events, local libraries. I also did. One of my most fun one was in a local mall where I did an event where it was not only kids, but it was teaching kids about service animals. So there were puppies there and kids. So the kids got to listen to me read and play and also play with puppies at the same time.
[00:14:43.580] - Dori Durbin
Would it be better? Books and puppies and kittens altogether? They had food on top of the better.
[00:14:52.270] - Shameka Andrews
How fun. Yes. I'm definitely hoping that come the summer and the fall, spring and summer that I'll have more opportunities to do more things in person, but also having these opportunities to speak on podcasts and things of that nature to promote the book and other projects that I'm working on.
[00:15:22.870] - Dori Durbin
So out of curiosity, why a kids book? Why not a teen book or podcast series? What drove you to do a kids book?
[00:15:34.970] - Shameka Andrews
Well, I think the main thing that made me want to do children's book is because, like I said, I didn't have that. And I felt there were a lot of experiences that I wasn't able to have during that period in my life. So I wanted to share those stories with kids and letting them know that even though there were a lot of difficult things about my childhood and things like that having disability, that I was able to continue and live. And really learn to be grateful for the things that I could do and the people that loved me and learning to love and appreciate myself and all of the things that I had. This one thing about me, but there are so many things about me and so many gifts that that has brought to me. So that's really why I decided to start with the children's book. Because like I said, I think it's so important as far as education, starting with children, especially when we're talking about disability awareness. Because like you said, not everybody has had that experience of having somebody with a disability and they might have a lot of questions and things like that.
[00:17:20.270] - Shameka Andrews
And I always say I love when children ask questions. Children are very curious about things and it's okay for children to ask questions. I think sometimes parents or older adults think that it's rude or they try to stop it, but that's the way children learn. And it's always okay to ask the question, but you don't know what people say in response to that question. But I always say if you don't ask a question, the answer is always no. So go ahead and ask your question. You can go ahead and ask your questions. I love when people ask me questions. I'd rather you ask questions than assume you already know something about me or about anybody with a disability.
[00:18:20.050] - Dori Durbin
That's a really great point. One thing that I like to ask authors that have kids books is how do you envision parents using your kids book? And I love what you just said. I don't want to answer this for you, but I do think a key of it is the questioning. So how would you encourage or coach parents to use your book to help them understand disabilities?
[00:18:45.930] - Shameka Andrews
Yeah, I would say encourage your children to be curious. Don't try to squash their curiosity. Because I think that a lot of times when I see parents or adults with other children, they kind of squash a children's curiosity. And I think it gives a sense of there's something for them to fear. And disability isn't anything for your child to fear. So I think type of reaction makes them think that they should be afraid of something. And I think we should be able to ask questions even as adults, I think because we've learned that we should be quiet and don't ask adults a lot of questions because that's rude. It's definitely what we learn. We ask questions right. We learn about each other because there are so many things. And I think that that stems from a lot of the issues that you see between adults these days, is because we're not willing to learn about each other. We had just focused on what makes us different, but there's lots of things that make us the same that we have similar to each other. And that's really what we try to show kids is that, yes, I'm in a wheelchair, and you may be walking on two legs, but maybe we both like to play baseball.
[00:20:27.430] - Shameka Andrews
Or we like to play hide and seek. Finding those things that are the same about us or that we have in common, but also understanding that there are things that make us different. But that doesn't mean that we can't be friends or we can't have talked to each other. So letting your children know that, yes, there are people that are different from them, but the more differences we have, you'll see that beyond that, we have many things in common. So I think that's an important lesson for parents to teach their children and that it's okay to be curious and it's okay ask questions, and that's how you learn.
[00:21:26.830] - Dori Durbin
That's a great answer. I think you're right. I think just encouraging that curiosity, allowing kids to see even parents maybe asking questions and not being afraid as adults to find out information that they don't know. And going back to what you said about the assuming not assuming that you know an answer, because that does make a difference. Now, I'm going to switch over just a little bit. Oh, go ahead.
[00:21:52.470] - Shameka Andrews
No, I was just agreeing with you. Because often adults will come and approach a conversation with me. They'll say something that in their head seems like a question, but it's not really a question because they already assume they already know the answer. So it's not really a question. If you think you already know, then there's no point in asking questions unless.
[00:22:17.960] - Dori Durbin
You're willing to be surprised or something.
[00:22:20.670] - Shameka Andrews
[00:22:22.670] - Dori Durbin
But anyway, are you using your book in your business now? Are you able to use it?
[00:22:30.670] - Shameka Andrews
Yeah, we've had a lot of partnerships with you mentioned Miss Wheelchair New York. Part of the partnership my business right now is doing miss Wheelchair New York is a completely volunteer organization, so any of the money that we bring in is through donations and things like that. So we often use the book and have book events to raise money for the organization. So we'll do book giveaways or we'll do different book fairs and things like that, vendor events and partnering with different organizations. Like I said, there's an organization that makes little girls clothes that we often partner with to do co events. That's the kinds of things. And like I said, I've also been doing lots of different podcasts because I'm not able to do a lot of or haven't been able to do a lot of things in person because that was when we did a lot of book readings and things like that. That's how I've been really utilizing the book now is to raise funds for the Miss Wheelchair organization or to also partner with other organizations that serve little girls specifically or children that want to do like a co event like have me, they sell their products and then I do a reading or something like that.
[00:24:31.700] - Shameka Andrews
But that's then zoom and things like that for the time being.
[00:24:39.050] - Dori Durbin
Is that kind of what you're thinking down the road? Your series will be more focused towards kind of fueling that whole the girls and that focus or just in general you'll be looking at disability awareness type books.
[00:24:56.110] - Shameka Andrews
I'm thinking right now that it will be disability awareness in general. Okay. There may be some things that are girl focused or women focused. So I have a lot of ideas that I just need to work on and put down on paper so we'll see where all of that comes. I also have some ideas during COVID I've been introduced to a lot of adaptive dance and things like that. I want to write something, possibly a book about that journey and being introduced to the people that I've been introduced to through dance these last few years through COVID that'll be probably, like I said, that keen group focused. Like I said, I have many ideas. It's just putting them down on paper and see where they all kind of fit.
[00:26:15.990] - Dori Durbin
Yeah, I think that's the hard thing as an author. You see all these doors kind of open up in front of you and you start making more decisions than you ever imagined because suddenly you have a book and people start to know who you are and what you're about. So it's a good thing, but it can be a tough thing to make decisions for sure.
[00:26:34.110] - Shameka Andrews
Yes. That's why I've always been a journalist, so I just write it all down. If an idea comes to my head, I write it down. And then I figured when it's supposed to come to fruition and be more than a list then that's what it will be. But at least it's out of here and down on a piece of paper somewhere.
[00:26:58.240] - Dori Durbin
Yes, that's smart because otherwise I think you tend to lose those ideas and you want to be able to go back to them easily. For sure. Let me ask you this. We're running down to the bottom of our time and I wonder, are there two reasons that every person who is like an expert or business owner should have a kids book?
[00:27:23.630] - Shameka Andrews
I think it's important. One of the things that I learned from coaches is about many avenues of income, right. Many different ways of getting to your goal. And I think a book is one of those great ways of doing that. Getting your name out there, getting your stories out there, and a great accent to whatever it is, what other training you may be doing or any products or anything that you might be having during your book. I think a book is a great way to start out putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper and sharing your story, because I think people love to see themselves in the stories that they read and the stories that they hear, and not everybody gets that opportunity. So having a wealth of diverse stories and characters and things in our books and in our stories and TV shows and all of those things is beneficial for everyone. So the more people that have the opportunity to do that, I think it's better for everyone.
[00:28:55.390] - Dori Durbin
That's great. That is great advice and so many reasons to write a kids book, if not just to pick one up and start to read with your kids, right?
[00:29:05.630] - Shameka Andrews
[00:29:07.310] - Dori Durbin
Well, Shamika, I appreciate your time today. I encourage people to go check out your book, The Butterfly on Wheels, and we're going to link all your socials and even your website or your site with your book underneath this podcast notes. So I just want to thank you for your time today and encourage people to check you out.
[00:29:29.010] - Shameka Andrews
Thank you very much for the opportunity.
[00:29:31.650] - Dori Durbin
[00:29:35.370] - Dori Durbin
Thank you for being a valuable listener for our podcast, The Power of Kids Books. If you learned something or enjoyed part of this podcast today, drop it in the comments below. And if you really loved it, share it with someone you love because we. Need to get The Power of Kids books out into every kid. Let's talk soon.