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Tompkins Graduate Debuts Children's Book to Showcase Sign Language, Disabilities as 'Superpowers'


July 1, 2021

By Natalie Cook Clark

A Katy ISD Tompkins’s High School graduate debuts a children’s book hoping to show the “superpower” of being hearing impaired, making deaf children more like us than different.

Shay Abigail shows off her book, "My Name is Maya." Photo credit: Shay Abigail.

Tompkins Grad Wants to Inspire

Katy’s Shay Abigail hopes to both inspire a and educate her readers about American Sign Language (ASL) through the fun story of her character, Maya, a deaf girl who treats her ability to communicate as a “superpower.”

It All Started at a Summer Camp

Shay was inspired when she worked at a local camp one summer and met a young girl who was deaf.

“I volunteered as a counselor at a camp for kids with disabilities,” says Abigail. “This is where I met a young camper who was deaf. I did not know sign language at the time. She inspired me to learn American Sign Language (ASL) and advocate for communication access.”

She took that inspiration and turned it into action and started learning ASL through books and videos.

Abigail graduated from Tompkins High School in 2017 and attended Lamar University and received a BA in American Sign Language-Teaching and Interpreting.

Author Shay Abigail

But she wanted to inspire others as she was inspired. Her mother is a children’s book author and she understood the value of inspiring others through books and characters.

“My Name is Maya is about a young girl who is deaf and communicates through sign language. She explains that being deaf does not hinder her daily life and how we are more alike than different,” says Abigail.

Writing was not always Abigail’s dream.

“As a little girl I wanted to be a butterfly,” says Abigail. “As a youth, I wanted to be a dancer and a singer. As a teenager, I enjoyed theatre and modeling. All these activities allowed me to express my creativity and stretch my imagination.”

While becoming a butterfly didn’t work out for her, she attributes her imagination and creativity to being able to write My Name is Maya.

“I am very proud of the final product, and the experience of writing, self-publishing, and working with an illustrator has encouraged me to write more books,” says Abigail, who plans to write more in Maya’s story.

From Babysitter to an Advocate for Children

Abigail has always loved working with children and always served the Katy community as a babysitter. These experiences also helped to inspire and prepare her for her future.

“Each child is unique in their own way,” says Abigail. “I decided I wanted to teach because it allows me to be with children every day. I am excited to explore the many different approaches to try to get a point across.”

Her passion for children wants her to take on challenging topics to help them.

“My future writing process will involve taking a difficult topic and presenting it to a child in a way that they can understand and relate to in their everyday life,” says Abigail.

My Name is Maya Available Online

My Name is Maya is available now online for $17.50.

“I hope that this book will be a resource for parents and teachers, and children to share that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals have unlimited potential,” says Abigail. “I hope the reader will see Maya and realize that our differences do not make us scary- they make us super!”

Shay Abigail is one of four daughters and she credits her sisters for encouraging her to volunteer at the camp that ultimately inspired her love for service and education for special needs children.

Giving Children a Voice

“I hope My Name is Maya will give a voice to all children, despite language or ability, says Abigail. “To the super parents, Shay hopes her book will serve as a resource and teaching tool about diversity, inclusion, and acceptance.”

Learn more about Shay Abigail, My Name is Maya, and her future projects at her website.


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