Former Special Education Student Publishes Best-Selling Children’s Book

book signing

Nelson Beats The Odds
“I want Nelson Beats The Odds to resonate with young people, particularly African American males and students with learning disabilities,” Sidney said, “I was in special education and I know exactly how it feels to be stigmatized and labeled.”

After spending seven years in remediation and special education, the last thing Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW thought he would become was an author. “When I graduated high school my goal was to become the next Puff Daddy. I wanted to own a record label, throw lavish parties and live the high life,” said Sidney. That all changed when Sidney switched his major from Business Management to Human Services at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. “Helping people came easy,” Sidney explained, “My father is a minister, my sister is a social worker and my mother is a nurse. I guess it runs in the family.”

After graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Human Services, Sidney took a job at the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck Community Services Board. “It was my first, real job. I didn’t know much about being a therapist but I knew I was passionate about working with troubled teenagers.” In school Sidney struggled academically and behaviorally. He spent five years in special education after being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Sidney enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work program in 2011 to learn how to better serve at-risk youth. In 2015 Sidney self-published Nelson Beats The Odds , a graphic novel about a young man who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education. The book became a platform for Sidney to share his childhood experiences and bring attention to the plight of students with disabilities.

“I want Nelson Beats The Odds to resonate with young people, particularly African American males and students with learning disabilities,” Sidney said, “I was in special education and I know exactly how it feels to be stigmatized and labeled.”

Studies have shown that students with learning disabilities face difficult odds and experience poorer academic outcomes than students without learning disabilities. A 2011 study by the IDEA Data Center found that African American students in Virginia made up 23.8% of the student population but represented 31.6% of students diagnosed with a specific learning disability. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Black and Hispanic students with disabilities face much higher rates of school disciplinary actions, drop-out rates and experience lower rates of graduation.

“The support on social media has been incredible. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame expressed interest in my book and retweeted a tweet I made on Twitter. Members of Black Educators Rock, an online Facebook group, have been very supportive of my project,” says Sidney. The group helped Sidney amass over 260 free promotional downloads in April. Sidney receives five free Kindle eBook promotions per quarter though Kindle Direct Publishing. “I’m a full time father and therapist so I rely heavily on Amazon to handle a bulk of my orders. Amazon really makes it easy for self-publishers to increase sales and visibility,” explained Sidney.

The success of Nelson Beats The Odds can be measured by it’s ranking on the Amazon Best Seller Paid in Kindle Store list:

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Education & Teaching > Teacher Resources > Special Education > Learning Disabilities

#2 in Books > Education & Teaching > Schools & Teaching > Special Education > Learning Disabled

#37 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Comics & Graphic Novels > Graphic Novels

When asked what it felt like to be a best-seller Sidney added, “It feels great! To come from a small town like Tappahannock, Virginia and inspire kids from all over the world with my book is humbling. My goal from the start was to encourage struggling students to beat the odds and that’s exactly what I’m doing.” Sidney credits much of his book’s success to his illustrators Imagine That! Design.

After releasing “Nelson Beats The Odds”, Sidney was inspired to develop the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOS mobile devices. The companion app allows users to customize photos and share them with friends on social media. Sidney also started #iBeatTheOdds, a popular Facebook social media campaign that gives individuals a platform to share stories about how they beat the odds.

Sidney has been featured on Fox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News.The second book from the Nelson Beats The Odds series, Tameka’s New Dress, is set to be released June 2016. For more information visit the author’s website at

Author: Ronnie Sidney II, MSW
Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, is a father, therapist, author, app developer, professional speaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur. 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.

Sidney has since published two books, "Nelson Beats the Odds" and "Tameka's New Dress". He also developed the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator. View all posts by Ronnie Sidney II, MSW
Author Ronnie Sidney II, MSWPosted on April 27, 2016