‘No Bee Like Me’ debuts
Photo: Deb Silverthorn
“I hope this book inspires others with autism and encourages them to not give up,” said first-time author Ross Neal.

Ross Neal’s 1st book

By Deb Silverthorn

Ross Neal learned to believe in himself. Now, through his debut children’s book, “No Bee Like Me,” the Plano resident wants to spread his wings and make children everywhere believe too. Ross’ book launch, where he will autograph books available for purchase on Amazon, will be from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16, at Franklin Books Bookstore and Reading Lounge at The Shops at Willow Bend. His book became available Nov. 8.

“This book is a window into the world where every obstacle became an opportunity for me to grow and adversities transformed into my strengths,” said Ross. “I want to inspire other children, and adults, to know you don’t have to be like everyone else to be a success.”

“No Bee Like Me” follows Ross’ life journey as he’s learned to survive and thrive through living with autism. It explores the bond between Ross — “Auti” in the book — and his mother, “Queen Bee.”

When Ross was born, his mother, Marilyn Massis knew she needed to find answers. He was initially misdiagnosed, but at age 8 he was correctly diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, now called autism spectrum disorder.

While visiting a pickleball court where his mother played, he showed immediate aptitude for the sport.

“I can play pickleball and I play it well. Just because I couldn’t do something before, or I wasn’t good at it, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying,” he says. “Just like me, ‘Auti’ had troubles in a lot of areas but realized he could go to school, he could play pickleball and he could have friends.”

Photo: Betty Sue Welch 
Marilyn Massis is shown playing pickleball with her son Ross Neal.

In his acknowledgments, Ross writes that “this book is a testament to the unwavering support and love of family and friends who have been ‘the wind beneath my wings.’”

Ross’ mother has helped him pave the way and is thrilled to watch him in this moment. “I didn’t know much about disabilities when Ross was born but I knew I was going to help him,” she said. We saw every neurologist in town and tried so many programs. He’s amazing. He was often told he ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t’ do something. I’m proud of him for believing he can, and will, do whatever he puts in the effort to do.”

Ross credits his nearly 97-year-old Grandma Harriet for being one of his greatest advocates.

“In addition to my mom, my Grandma Harriet has always been there for me and a lot of my confidence comes from her unconditional love,” said Ross. “Whenever I felt like giving up believing in myself, she’d say ‘You can do it!’”

Ross’ book tells of how, for years, “Auti” found safety only when in his “hive” (home) with his “Queen” (mother). It mentions how he tried sports and activities, visiting family and other journeys most “bees” (children) experience.

Ultimately, the story celebrates “Auti’s” — that is, Ross’ — unique journey and resilience. Serving as a testament to the power of determination and unwavering support in the face of challenges, “No Bee Like Me” includes autism-related resources, coloring pages and a crossword puzzle patterned after the story.

A first-time author, Ross published his book with the support of Franklin Books Bookstore and Reading Lounge as well as Franklin the Helper Children’s Books LLC founder Demetré Bevins and her son Franklin Edwards. The duo’s bookstore and tutoring center also helps prospective writers fulfill their dreams of publication.

“I’ve written my own books and I knew he had a book in him. He had to write of the experiences because they are his, but then we helped him get through the publishing process,” said Franklin Edwards.

A lifelong member of Temple Emanu-El, Ross was in B’nai B’rith Youth Organization and is a Berkner High School graduate. Through the years he has volunteered at Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas. Now a student at Brookhaven College, in addition to pursuing the publication of this book and maybe others, he hopes for a career in web development.

Like “Auti,” the more Ross has stepped out of his comfort zone, the more he believes in himself. In the book, “Auti,” who at first is blue, different from all the other bees’ shades of yellow, finds himself becoming much more like the other bees.

Ross has found confidence in himself and believes he can be and do whatever he dreams of.

“I hope this book inspires others with autism and encourages them to not give up,” said Ross. “Every obstacle can become a strength, with the right support and treatment, and levels of autism can change. Keep trying and always ‘bee-lieve’ in yourself.”

To order “No Bee Like Me,” visit tinyurl.com/No-Bee-Like-Me.

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