By Sarah Slayman
Heather Hammel, a 2007 graduate of Central Crossing High School, experiences a handful of disabilities. Some would call her different. Those differences isolated Hammel as a child, but she has turned that pain into an opportunity to author a book that she hopes will help kids like her not feel so alone.
Hammel’s differences were not always understood by classmates growing up, specifically her experience with Tourette Syndrome. This condition of the nervous system triggers sporadic sounds and motions that could be particularly difficult for children to make sense of. Hammel said because of her condition, she was bullied for several years unbeknownst to her family, leaving her feeling isolated.
Her mother, Janice Hammel, remembers feeling shocked upon learning that her daughter’s experience was so painful. She recalled all the times they were in public and friends came running to say hello to her daughter. It wasn’t until years after graduation that Janice learned not everyone treated Hammel this way. She encourages unsuspecting parents to check in with their child and how they’re being treated at school. This book is a hopeful conversation starter in that regard.
In recounting the bullying with her mother, Hammel had the idea to author a story of a little girl with similar struggles, but with an ending that she herself longed for as a child. Janice encouraged her to write out a storyline, and thus began the creative process.
“Angel’s Special Day” addresses the challenges of experiencing a struggle that is not well understood by following the experience of a little girl with Tourette Syndrome through her days at school.
Angel, the title character, gets teased for her disability on her walk to school, inside the classroom, and everywhere in between. She tells her parents how sad she is, something Hammel wishes she would have done sooner.
“I wrote this for other kids and adults who are like me and need help,” said Hammel.
Once the story was complete, a copy was sent to Covenant Books Publishing for review.
After minor edits and added illustrations selected by Hammel, the book was officially published last year.
Janice regards the book as an educational tool for teachers as one way to prevent bullying. She said teachers could tailor this storyline to help explain what is going on with a certain child in their classroom that mirrors Angel’s experience.
“She is so much farther along than they ever thought she would be when she was born, and I give God all the glory for it,” Janice said of her daughter. “I am so proud of her for all that she’s done.”
Hammel encourages all who are experiencing bullying and having a hard time standing up for themselves to go to an adult they trust and ask for help.
“Everything is truly going to be okay,” said Hammel. “You can get through it like I did.”
Elementary schools within the South-Western City Schools District have agreed to carry the book in their libraries. “Angel’s Special Day” is also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & iTunes.