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Teachable moment inspires children’s book about diverse abilities

“I Have An Elephant in My Ear” is a new book about diverse abilities by Dr. Teresa Leary Handy that debuts this month.

One mother’s teachable moment for her son inspired the publication of a children’s book designed to raise awareness and acceptance of people with diverse abilities.

In her first children’s book, “I Have An Elephant In My Ear,” Dr. Teresa Leary Handy writes about a little boy who has hearing loss. He shows his friends how he can use his other senses to read, play, sing, and dance.

Former Jackson Sun parenting columnist Dr. Teresa Leary Handy pens new children’s book to teach acceptance of differences.

It is Dr. Handy’s hope that the book becomes a launching pad to start conversations with young children centered on the acceptance and understanding of differences. Although the book’s main character is a boy with a hearing disability, the book also shows the acceptance of people with differences in skin color, eye sight, community backgrounds, careers, and modes of transportation. “They are a part of this wonderful land of inclusion,” Dr. Handy said. The intended audience for the book is children between the ages of 3 and 7. She is also working on a parent/teacher guide that can help frame conversation starters to introduce the lessons in diversity. She is passionate about teaching all children at an early age to understand that our differences makes us unique. “That’s what makes us all amazing.” (And if you need another example of what it looks like to live out the concept of embracing diverse abilities, please plan a visit to the STAR Center). Dr. Handy’s book debuts this month and is available for pre-order on the website

Dr. Handy is an administrator, educator, and former parenting columnist contributor for The Jackson Sun. She earned her doctorate degree in education leadership from the University of Memphis. She also has a degree in sociology from Spelman College and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago. She is married and has two children. Dr. Handy is willing to visit with schools and community groups who are interested in interactive book signings where she will read the book and model conversation starters. She already has plans to write more books. Dr. Handy wrote the original content for the book more than 20 years ago when she lived in Jackson, but it took her awhile to find the right illustrator to capture the vision that she had in mind for the book. The story was a creative tool for her young son at the time to help him understand why some people used sign language.

She and her son saw someone using sign language and she was trying to figure out a way to tell a toddler that sometimes people are born without their hearing. “How do you explain that to a child who can hear?”

And then Dr. Handy thought of a way to explain it in a way that her son could understand. She said, “If you have something as big as an elephant in your ear, how can you possibly hear?” To request more information or to contact Dr. Handy, you can email her directly at

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