Viral Tik Toker surprises and inspires West Brighton boy with new book, ‘I’m Just a Kid with an IEP’

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Twelve-year old Nathan Ettinger enjoyed a special surprise recently, when an inspirational author and Tik Tok influencer, Jordan Toma, hand-delivered his new book, “I’m Just a Kid with an IEP,” at his West Brighton home.

“It was really cool to meet a person who had all the problems I had when he was little,” said Nathan. “I was happy to receive his book so I can learn more about him and how he overcame his challenges. It’s something I will always remember and thank my mom for. ”

Toma, a motivational speaker, financial adviser, and social media personality, is known for his inspirational messages and support of school-aged kids and beyond. He has built a loyal following from his posts on his personal difficulties growing up with – and overcoming – learning disabilities, just like Nathan, who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD and anxiety.

But how did this popular author and financial adviser come to know Nathan?

“Several years ago, I saw a video posted by Jordan Toma under the social media handle @ I’m Just Kid With an IEP,” said Nathan’s mom, Kerri Ettinger, herself a Staten Island educator, at St. Joseph Hill Academy Elementary School. “The video really touched me on so many levels.

“I started watching every video he posted and sharing them with my son, Nathan. Two years ago Jordan started making personal videos for followers. I messaged him and he made an awesome video to lift Nathan up. ”

Admittedly, Toma’s videos have kept the Ettinger family grounded throughout Nathan’s journey. “Jordan Toma’s videos have lifted us up and kept our hopes up,” she added. “For me as a mom, Jordan has given me comfort that everything will be OK, that what I feel is normal and that the struggle is worth it.”

When Kerri read that Toma had published a book, “I’m Just A Kid With An IEP,” and was hand-delivering them to his subscribers in New Jersey and surrounding areas, she reached out to him. An IEP is an individualized education program, and is designed for students who need extra help and support in school.

“I emailed Jordan on a Tuesday and to my delight he was coming to deliver the book on Wednesday. I didn’t tell Nathan, as I wanted him to be surprised. He was thrilled! ”

Jordan visited for at least 45 minutes, presenting Nathan a personally inscribed book. “He really spent time talking to him,” Kerri said. “The next night he asked Nathan to share his story live with him on his Facebook page. He’s lit a new fire under Nathan and it’s wonderful to see.

“I tell everyone whether your child struggles or not that Jordan has advice for all kids. He’s truly an inspirational person. ” Follow him on Tik Tok here.


According to Kerri, “Nate” has had a long journey. “By Pre-K, my husband, Scott, and I knew Nate needed extra help. At the end of first grade, he was evaluated by a neuropsychologist who diagnosed him with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD and anxiety.

“Luckily, at that point he received related services, OT, speech and five hours of specialized tutoring a week. At this time, he attended Our Lady of Good Counsel School, in Tompkinsville, but by the beginning of third grade, although a wonderful and supportive school, OLGC could no longer support his needs. ”

Kerri and Scott enrolled Nate in Holy Rosary School, for the new, integrated Special Ed program there. The faculty and related services were “wonderful” but not a good fit for Nate, who began to struggle both socially and emotionally.

“In the fall of the fourth grade, I spoke to my own principal at St. Joseph Hill Academy, Lawrence Hansen, who suggested Nate try Hill, ”Kerri said. “He said, ‘Why don’t you put him here? We have the resources to support Nate. ‘ So in January of 2020, Nate entered fourth grade at SJHA. He was finally truly happy. Then the pandemic hit and the world was put on pause.

But Nate’s teachers did not disappoint. “Thankfully, the Hill teachers were wonderful,” said KerrI. “His therapists were super supportive and really creative on Google meet. Since then, he’s done very well, despite his grades fluctuating.

“Every day is a struggle but he’s happy and receiving the support he needs from everyone at Hill.”

Nathan with one of his pet dogs. (Courtesy Kerri Ettinger)


Nate’s journey has had its ups and downs, explains Kerri. “Being a neurodivergent is not easy and people talk about the ‘gift of dyslexia,'” she said. “It’s hard to see it as a gift when we’re you literally in the trenches struggling through it.

“Thankfully, Nate’s an easygoing kid who can go with the flow. He will often struggle with the fact that he has so many challenges but he has embraced each new experience as a result. ”

Kerri credits so many people for helping Nate get to where it is today in his educational journey. “Family, friends, teachers, therapists and counselors have touched my son’s life and have helped lifted him up along the way,” she said. “The list of people who have made a difference is long.

“He’s finally at a point where he’s OK being different. He’s determined to get as much work done on his own as he can. His teachers are wonderful at assessing what they can based on Nathan’s best instead of an expectation that’s too high for him.

Learn more about Jordan Toma here.

Courtesy Kerri Ettinger

Leila Ettinger has her arm around her brother, Nathan Ettinger. (Courtesy Kerri Ettinger)

Courtesy Kerri Ettinger

Nathan Ettinger helped raise money for children with cancer in march by shaving his head for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. (Courtesy Kerri Ettinger)

Courtesy Kerri Ettinger

Leila and Nathan Ettinger on their recent family Christmas card. (Courtesy Kerri Ettinger)

Courtesy Kerri Ettinger

The Ettinger family – Scott, Kerri, and Leila – all proudly with Nathan 12, who helped raise money for children with cancer, by shaving his head. (Courtesy Kerri Ettinger)

Courtesy Kerri Ettinger

Leila and Nathan Ettinger with their pets in their West Brighton home. (Courtesy Kerri Ettinger)

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