CINCINNATI -- Leiana Amy Amore Jones is a bright, spunky 6-year-old who's loved to play in the kitchen since she first saw her mother and grandmother working together over the burners.
"She's amazing," her mother, Leah Jones-Finklea, said. "Everybody that meets her loves her. She has the sweetest bubbly personality."
When she entered school, her family discovered she also had a speech impediment -- and, as a result, was having trouble making friends her own age. Leiana's school connected her with a speech therapist, but her mother wanted to find a way to help at home, too.
That's when Amazing Amy, Leiana's YouTube-star alter ego, was born.
Jones-Finklea lights, films and edits Leiana's cooking tutorials, which allow her to pursue her passion for cooking and encourage her to speak without being afraid of judgment.
"It's been going on for a year and a half now," Jones-Finklea said. "It started off in the kitchen, just kind of playing around with different things … and I just kind of took that and said, 'Hey, we can actually do a show from this, and maybe it can help other kids.'"
She added she's received an overwhelming response from other parents whose children have speech impediments since she began posting Amazing Amy's cooking videos online.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 8 percent of all children in the United States have a disorder related to "voice, speech, language or swallowing" -- for black children such as Leiana, the rate is an even higher 10 percent.
Finklea-Jones said she hopes other parents whose children have speech impediments will work to meet those children where they are and pursue speech therapy techniques that incorporate the child's interests.
"I'm just so proud of the way she's developing over time," she said of Leiana. "She doesn't get discouraged. She keeps trying and keeps trying, and I love that about her."
To other kids with speech impediments, her message is simple: "Keep trying and don't give up! And keep watching Amazing Amy cooking!"
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