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Bus boy, sound system manager, big brother

Helping youth through change and transition

“Rainbows is a part of every aspect of our lives,” said Jeannie, Caleb’s mother. “They’ve been there for us since Caleb was a 3-year-old with an autism diagnosis and it’s such a relief they’re still there for us now.”

Jeannie’s aunt, Susan Bliss, is a Direct Support Professional at Rainbows. When Jeannie needed help, Susan recommended Rainbows, and Caleb and his family began receiving services through Rainbows’ Family Support Services’ Program.

When Caleb turned 5, he joined the fun at Camp Woodchuck. “Caleb has come a long way,” said Tiffany Graf, Assistant Coordinator for Family Support Services and Camp Director. “I remember when his mom would walk him into Rainbows and he would be behind her with his face buried. Now, he’ll walk in and say, “Where are the Tiffany’s? I need to speak to them.”

Tiffany Sallee, Direct Support Professional and one of the Tiffany’s, agreed that Caleb has grown through the Rainbows’ programs. “Caleb never wanted to go down to the gym to practice for choir. One day he was down in the gym watching the buses, because that is one of his favorite things to do, and he saw me setting up the speaker and microphone to prepare for choir practice. He started telling me all the amazing things he knew about electronics! Since that day, Caleb has been our honorary sound system manager. Over the last several years it has been such a joy getting to know Caleb and watch him thrive with his ‘camp job’.”

When the pandemic hit, 13-year-old Caleb was in the middle of transitioning into a new school district. Everything changed, but Rainbows remained his constant and helped him with the transition.

“Caleb keeps it together all day long and then “dumps” on us, the parents,” said Jeannie. “He comes home and decompresses. I needed help when Caleb was little and I still need help. If I don’t ask, then I’m in trouble. I have so many people I can go to. Hard, gut-wrenching work is involved, but everybody is there to make the best possible life for this amazing and inspiring child. We all work together and we make it happen.”

Direct Support Professional Kim Blanton works with Caleb after school and during the summer. She works closely with Jeannie and Michael, Caleb’s father, and keeps them involved. For example, this summer Kim, Caleb and his family are focusing on one skill, Initial Impulse Control. If asked to do something, Caleb’s initial impulse is to be angry and defensive. “I’ll do it, but I have to be angry first.” They’re all working on transitioning that to a positive experience rather than a negative gut reaction.

“My favorite activity is to sit on the porch swing and talk,” said Kim. “I love connecting with Caleb and being a human he can count on to give him support as he does life.” Kim and Caleb also spend time visiting Caleb’s favorite places: Orschelin’s to see the chicks, the Truck Supply store, Tropical Sno and the Bus Barn.

“Rainbows goes the extra mile,” said Jeannie. “They balance what Caleb wants with what Caleb needs. Because of that, we get to experience amazing little moments of life that would not be possible without Rainbows. His diagnosis does not define him. Caleb is the Bus Boy; he’s the Tropical Sno kid; he’s the Sound System kid for Rainbows.”

This past year brought a new experience into Caleb’s life. His brother Alister, 2, is now receiving services from Rainbows. Caleb is now the sibling, not the client.

Caleb’s plan is to work doing maintenance on buses and still be a part of Rainbows forever.

Follow this link to read more about Kim Blanton.