In the spring and fall of 2016, northern Utah experienced two severe windstorms, including a few areas of tornados. The winds were scary and destructive, destroying big, strong trees, trampolines, roofs, and full houses.
Jackson was a 3rd grade student during the first windstorm and a new 4th grader for the second. He experienced the scary reality of these windstorms firsthand and couldn’t forget the fear. Jackson who also has Autism and has a tendency to become obsessed and anxious with certain topics, began to talk and worry nonstop about the weather and if the next windstorm was on its way. He was scared to leave the house and so worried about the weather that he couldn’t think about anything else. One day, he even called 911 to come to his house without his parents’ knowledge, in hopes that a police officer should be able change the bad weather.
His good parents did all they could to calm his fears and anxieties with logic, reassurance, love, prayers and special blessings, but his worries and obsession continued. In 4th grade, his fears intensified, especially as his teacher began the 4th grade weather unit. His parents took him to a counselor who helped and gave his parents ideas, such as limiting the amount of times they could look up the weather or talk about the weather as he earned rewards for discussing the weather less and less. In the fall of his 4th grade year, Jackson’s parents, teachers and principal brainstormed an idea. Jackson could be the school weatherman. He could research and give a weather forecast on the announcements each day for the entire school.
So often, parents, teachers and other adults immediately try to calm children’s fears and anxieties with statements such as, “Don’t worry.” Our focus is on telling a child with anxiety what NOT to do. But oftentimes, adults forget to tell or find something that an anxious child CAN do with their anxious energy. Jackson’s story is a perfect example of empowering an anxious child with what he CAN do!
Jackson thrived as the school weatherman! He took his new job seriously and did a fabulous job! Teachers and students throughout the school looked forward to his daily weather report on the announcements. His parents were relieved that this successful partnership with his school, along with the other strategies they had continued, had eased his anxiety about the weather at home and at school.
In December 2016, after a couple months of being the school weatherman, Jackson came up with an idea all on his own. He decided he should write a letter to share with other schools about the importance of having a school weatherman. He wrote the letter and sent it to all the elementary schools in his school district. He felt so successful with his school weatherman job that he wanted to others to feel the same success! Below are some excerpts of his letter:
“Hi there, school principal, I’m a fourth grader [and] I’m the school’s weatherman. Do you have a weatherman too? If you don’t, you should get one. I’m going to tell you what you should do if you get your school’s weatherman (if you want to, that is)… If any of the kids… want to, they can tell the teacher… You might need someone who knows a lot about clouds and what the weather is going to be today… So, in the morning, have your weatherman ready to tell the weather for the day. Here’s the things he or she need to say. How it’s going to be over the next few hours, how it’s going to be tomorrow, and the high and the low. Well, there’s the stuff you need. I really hope you get one, because since I’m my school’s weatherman, I wanted other schools to have one too… P.S. I became the weatherman because I wanted to and it’s not a punishment.”After Jackson’s mom endearlingly shared his letter on Instagram to her friends, Utah’s KSL TV station ended up seeing it. KSL’s weatherman, Grant Weyman, highlighted Jackson in a their “High Five” segment. They surprised Jackson with a visit to his school and then invited him to be an honorary weatherman on KSL. You can see their visit to Jackson’s school here.
Jackson is pretty proud of his weatherman super star status. And what is even better is that he goes about his days at home, school and in the community with calm confidence in any weather. What a great success story about empowering an anxious child with something they CAN do! Nice work Jackson and all his supporters! I hope this success story might help another child’s parents, teachers and other supporters to brainstorm what their anxious child CAN do!