EASLEY — When Jenna Raines was given a writing assignment 20-odd years ago by her high school teacher, she had no idea how much it would end up impacting her life.
But impact it, it did.
“In 1994 I was a teacher cadet at Easley High School in the cadet’s class of Pat Steiner and because of her assignment, this is possible,” said Raines. “We were tasked to write a book about whatever topic we would like, illustrate it, and I wrote about a special needs bear.”
Raines said she wrote the book — put it away — and went about living her life, not thinking too much about it.
“As life would have it, I had a son with special needs, he was diagnosed with Autism,” she said.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that impacts the way people perceive the world around them. Often interfering with sensory processing, eye contact and communication, the disorder is one of the most common in the world and is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control to affect 1 in 58 children.
There is no known cause — and there is no cure. Symptoms can be wide and varied but therapy treatments can help — especially when implemented at an early age.
“After my son was diagnosed, I remembered my book,” said Raines. “So I dug it out and found it in a drawer in my room and I just thought ‘Wow, how prophetic.’ I think this was God’s hand in preparing me.”
Raines credits her mother for helping to find a publisher.
“I updated it, I spoke with his (he son’s) therapists to get more appropriate modern language in regards to special needs and I expanded it, re-did the illustrations and things like that but it’s still the original story,” she said. “The rest is history.”
Raines also changed the name of the bear from “B.J.” to “R.J.” — her son’s initials.
Her book, “Beary Special” is available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon websites. It is also available locally at Poor Richard’s Bookstore on W. Main Street in downtown Easley where Raines recently held a book signing.
“Everything that has happened is almost serendipitous,” said Raines. “It’s a calling — a blessing — to be a special needs mom and it’s a world not everyone understands. But it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”