This post is part of our Guest Picks series, featuring members of our library community sharing their favorite books and movies.
Ronnie Sidney II is a therapist, public speaker, entrepreneur, and author of Nelson Beats the Odds,, opens a new window a book to share with children that draws from his own early experiences with ADHD. Here, he answers our questions and shares reading selections that he has enjoyed and that have inspired him.
If you could give one piece of advice to parents of a young child with ADHD, what would it be?
My advice is for parents to support their kids’ strengths. Kids with ADHD have many gifts that are often overlooked because of their hyperactive or impulsive behavior. My father was a Baptist minister, and I was active in church activities that gave me an opportunity to speak.
Ever since kindergarten, I would get in trouble for talking excessively to my peers in class. In high school, teachers began seeing my talking as my strength and encouraged me to participate in forensics, debate, and other public speaking competitions. Today, I'm able to use my strength professionally as an outpatient therapist and professional speaker.
Did you connect with a particular teacher when you were going through school? What did he or she do that seemed to help?
The teacher that I most connected to was my special education teacher Ruth Tobey. During sixth and seventh grade, I stopped believing in myself. I started following the crowd and getting into more trouble in school. I can’t remember anything Mrs. Tobey said, but I remember how she made me feel. Even though it was a special education class, I never felt “slow” or stigmatized. She helped me improve my handwriting and organizational skills. She made me feel like I was smart, capable of overcoming my academic challenges. Mrs. Tobey inspired me so much that I included her in Nelson Beats the Odds, opens a new window as "Mrs. T." Mrs. T is a special education teacher who will help Nelson and others overcome their academic and behavioral challenges.
How did working with incarcerated adults change you?
The longer I worked in corrections, the more I saw the incarcerated men as adolescents coping with unresolved trauma. I studied research and started listening closely to their childhood stories of poverty, parental substance abuse, and violence. In 2014, I developed Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words. It was an inexpensive intervention that would give incarcerated men a platform to heal old wounds by resolving past traumas. I've always found writing and dialogue therapeutic, so I partnered with a gentleman named Cleveland Winfield III to help me develop the program. I wanted to integrate expressive writing because it's an evidence-based writing intervention that improves participants' emotional, physical, and mental health. I looked forward to getting up on Sunday mornings to facilitate the workshops at Northern Neck Regional Jail. The level of talent and depth of the participants forced me to challenge my own assumptions and grow as a writer.
What does the future hold for your company?
My second book, Tameka's New Dress, will be released mid-June 2016. I'm very excited about it. The book will bring up subjects of childhood trauma, parental substance abuse, kinship care, colorism, and bullying. Tameka’s New Dress shines a light on these tough issues and lays them out on the table to talk about. Tameka is a strong girl who not only finds adults who can and do support her, but also finds a way to fight off her bullies without becoming a bully herself.
I'm currently working on my third book in the series, R.I.P. RaShawn, which will be released this fall. I am looking forward to growing my brand by developing a Nelson Beats the Odds animated series, toys, games and clothing.
About Ronnie Sidney II:
Ronnie Sidney II, MSW, is a father, therapist, author, app developer, professional speaker, and entrepreneur. He lives in Essex County, Virginia, with his significant other, Talisha Self, and two daughters, Mali and Morgan. He received a Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. Ronnie was raised in Tappahannock, Virginia, and attended Essex County Public Schools (ECPS). While attending ECPS, he spent several years in Special Education after being diagnosed with a learning disability. The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school. Nevertheless, he graduated from Essex High School in 2001, but with a 1.8 GPA. With limited options regarding four-year colleges, he decided to enroll in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. The following year, he transferred to Old Dominion University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in human services in 2006.
Ronnie's early academic challenges ignited a passion within him to pursue social justice and to work with the youth. He has spent over eight years in the mental health and academic counseling fields and currently works as an outpatient therapist at the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck Community Services Board (MP-NNCSB). Ronnie is an active member of the Richmond Association of Black Social Workers (RABSW). He founded Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, an expressive writing program for offenders. He implemented the program at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia for six months before expanding the program into an LLC. The company's mission is to improve participants' social, emotional, and physical health through therapeutic writing and dialogue.
In 2015, Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC published Nelson Beats the Odds,, opens a new window an inspiring graphic novel that celebrates friendship, resilience, and empowerment. Nelson, the books' main character, overcomes his learning disability and ADHD diagnosis with the help of his parents and special education teacher. After releasing Nelson Beats the Odds, opens a new window, Ronnie was inspired to develop the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator app for iOS and Android mobile devices. Ronnie created the app so that children and adults can share inspirational photos and stories about how they beat the odds on social media. Ronnie was recently invited to appear on Fox and Friends Weekend and spoke candidly about his experience with ADHD and Specific Learning Disability. Ronnie will be releasing his second book, Tameka's New Dress, June 16, 2016. This book will explore trauma, parental substance abuse, grandfamilies, and bullying. For more information visit the author's blog nelsonbeatstheodds.wordpress.com or website at www.creative-medicine.com, opens a new window.
Below are selections from Ronnie's Guest Picks booklist:
Just like Santiago, I’m also in search of my personal legend. My book, Nelson Beats the Odds, is proof that "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true." Also available as an eBook and on audio CD.
I was a reluctant reader growing up, but, when I got my hands on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, I couldn’t set it down.
I come in contact with young people on a daily basis that have experienced some form of trauma. Dr. Van Der Kolk’s book provides tips on how we can heal our brains, minds, and bodies from trauma.
This book opened my eyes to my own educational experience along with the experience of African American males across the country. Dr. Kujufu offers solutions to help educators meet the needs of African American boys.
The Crossover combines my two first loves, basketball and poetry. I love the way Kwame breaks the book down into smaller poems, makes it less threatening to reluctant readers. Also available on audio to download and as an eBook.
I absolutely love this graphic novel! I read it to my two girls, Mali and Morgan, and it taught me that disabilities can become superpowers.
My therapeutic writing and dialogue group, Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, uses writing prompts from this book. I began the group at Northern Neck Regional Jail, and the offenders really responded to the expressive writing interventions.
I felt a sense of accomplishment after reading this entire book as a kid. It was the first book I read from beginning to end that wasn’t assigned by a teacher. Also available to download on audio.
I am a huge fan of the AMC series and the graphic novel. I recently finished reading The Walking Dead Volume 25: No Turning Back, and I can’t wait to see what Robert Kirkman has up his sleeves.