This post was contributed by guest blogger Jennifer Jett. 

It is hard to believe that we have been living in this storm for almost five years now. You notice I said living…we are actually doing more than that…we are thriving. A storm warning and then an actual storm itself can be so frightening and the uncertainty of the destruction is added stress. My advice would be the same as the weatherman’s: be prepared and be knowledgeable. But as he would say to find shelter I say, DO NOT TAKE COVER.
There is no reason to hide or be embarrassed. There is no shame with having a special needs child and asking for help. I am not saying it is easy, and I remember many times my voice cracking as I explained to a stranger on the other end of the phone that my son had autism and we needed services. I remember the pain I felt as someone mentioned riding a mini bus and signing the form that said special education. I still feel uneasy when I think he is being judged unfairly or looked at because of some of his actions.
Just as a storm can show you what is important to you, I believe autism has done the same for me. I look at things differently as a mother and a teacher. I focus on what a child CAN do and have learned to love those oddities that are mixed in with the others. The past five years have been hard, and I have been drenched many, many times, but living through those downpours allows me to help those that are receiving their first warnings.
In my earlier blog, I stated that Maya Angelou believes that a person should be a rainbow in others people’s storms. In the past year, I have taken steps to do this as I am now a Support Parent for Family Connection of SC. When a parent gets a diagnosis of autism, I receive their name and a contact number. The phone call I make is meant to be like an umbrella shielding them from the rain. I can relate to their pain, and I can remember the fear that rips you to the core. I remember the sickness that overwhelms you not knowing what the future will hold. As some of them cry, or talk, or ask simple questions, and I stand firm with a tight grip on that umbrella and simply tell them that they are not alone. There are services for them and their children. I tell them the storm will let up and there will be sun. But when the wind blows so hard and the storm seems unstoppable, I remind them there are plenty of “special Moms” including myself with maps leading them out of the rain.
There are some special Moms creating rainbows to help others in their storms. A group of these ladies are at my church, First Baptist of Lexington. They felt that the siblings of the special kids needed extra love. They met and created SIBS-super incredible brothers and sisters. The group meets once a month with one goal in mind: to have fun. They all share one common bond – having a special needs sibling. As a Mom, I know it is hard on the other children. They are caught up in a storm that seems to never end. Some days they feel continuously poured upon going to therapies with their sibling or having therapists in and out of their homes. Many never attend normal family outings. The monthly SIBS’ activities brings them in from their storms and provides shelter and allow them to express things they might have built up inside.
My oldest son, Walker, has given me so much pride in how he has handled having a special needs brother. He treats him equally and becomes his protector when he feels McLane needs it. Walker is a role model and true leader. Being 10 years old has not stopped him from being a rainbow in others’ storms. He built birdhouses this summer and gave half of his earnings to the SC Autism Society. He posted them on Facebook and at his school and took orders. He donated more than $225. His latest project is creating loom bracelets and donating half to the Autism Society. A storm should not define you but shape you and that is exactly what it has done for Walker.
McLane entered this storm, and he has trudged through it with charm and bravery. I tear up as I write these words remembering his courage as he participated in numerous therapies. He began this storm enrolled in the special needs 3-year-old preschool. He attended hours of ABA, OT, Social Group, Music Therapy and Speech. This year he is blossoming in regular 2nd grade. I received the letter yesterday stating he would be tested for the gifted and talented program.
The wind does slow and the rain will stop. The storms are fierce and so frightening and you do not know the forecast ahead. You must put on those rain boots and walk out into the rain. You do not want to miss the beauty after the rainstorm.
“You will never see the rainbow if you are always looking down.”
Jennifer Jett