Skip to content

Has It Been A Year Already?

August 21, 2011

by Sarena and Raphael James


OA9 Turns One Year Old!

For one year now, we have invited anyone willing; to take a journey with us On Aisle 9.  We started this blog not knowing if anyone outside of our families would even bother to read it.  However, since then the response has been overwhelming and quite humbling.

Our motivation for On Aisle 9 was quite simple.

If we couldn’t change our son with special needs, we could certainly try to change the world in which he lives. 

Our hope is that after reading this blog people will readily identify  On Aisle 9 Moment’s and search themselves for ways to minimize volatile situations. In some cases these events can be diffused altogether through Understanding, Perspective and Sensitivity.

Over this past year we have found that people are basically, good. When we have had the luxury of explaining our situation, people usually respond with acts of kindness. However, because our son shows no sign of any physical defect his peculiar behavior can be too much for some to take, especially in public.


We have offered up candid glimpses of our personal lives dealing with autism and its associated struggles.

But, when we were given the news that our son was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum the last thing we wanted to do was tell the world about it! We decided to tell only a small circle of friends and family.  We buried ourselves in the best treatments and research and determined to deal with it as privately as possible.

But a series of events and the emergence of a new friend quickly changed that.

Sarena and Raphael James, Rene Syler

“Sometimes you meet people who are friends ’til the end, right from the beginning.” –Rene Syler,



RAPHAEL:  I am a Television News Anchor at WCSC in Charleston, SC. One day after coming off of the set I noticed Rene Syler, in our newsroom doing a live interview with CNN. Syler is founder of and  a former network News Anchor for CBS. After the interview we talked as if we had been friends forever. She mentioned her website and I just happened to let her know that my wife was a writer. Since the diagnosis she had been journaling and one of her pieces had just been published. Rene read it and asked if she’d be interested in writing another piece for GEM.

SARENA: I just wanted to tell my side of the story.  I wanted someone to put my shoes on and try to walk in them. I wanted someone to listen to the piercing screams with my ears.  I wanted someone to see the not so visible truth that families of children with Autism often find themselves battling in two worlds; the world of special needs with all of its statistics, and studies, and strategies, and the separate world of spectators who often judge harshly with their stares.  

I listened with my heart and wrote the story; she listened with her heart and published it.                  

I expected the feeling of freedom, that came from finally releasing our private journey to the public, but what I did not expect were the emails, calls, and Facebook messages from people who wanted to know more, or could relate.

     “I have a brother On Aisle 9, a nephew, a neighbor.

       “I’ve been On Aisle 9 almost my entire life.”  

With Rene’s help and guidance we decided we would do more. We decided to launch OA9.

Sarena James (OA9) and Rene Syler (GEM)

RENE: I’m so proud of what OA9 has accomplished in a year’s time. By sharing your journey, you are educating, demystifying, encouraging and offering hope to so many. Not to mention you’re just a couple of cool people! OA9 made me two new and lifelong friends and I’m THRILLED to have played a part. Love you guys and what you’re doing!

We began chronicling Grant’s milestones, one inch at a time.  On Aisle 9 we’ve met some super parents, friends and families also on the journey with us.  Incredible organizations have reached out to us like The Children’s Museum, Camp Good Times, The Summerville Miracle League and MUSC: Project Rex Autism Support Fund Raiser!

We have discussed with our readers the latest news and trends as it pertains to ASD and other special needs. We have shared the lessons that we have learned along this journey from Grant’s teachers and therapy providers.

We’ve had opportunities to go on TV at WCSC Live 5 News in Charleston and speak about Autism Awareness.  We’ve had invitations to speak to groups as a result of On Aisle 9.

And we have shared with you notes and thoughts from our readers.  One in particular, Deronda Corbin, who shared with us her very own On Aisle 9 moment. A situation where she exercised Understanding, Perspective and Sensitivity to make everyone feel comfortable in what could have been a very tense situation.

We feel that we have stayed true to our mission of providing a place to go for those who have or will experience a person with special needs.   Through our stories we’ve tried to offer hope.  Thank you for your support and your voice. We’d also like to send out very personal “thank you’s”  to Marilyn Chipman and Adrian Grimes who believed our story would enlighten and empower others. Thanks for helping us navigate the waters of social media and the world-wide web.

Please feel free to contact us  Feel free to recommend topics or any feedback that might be useful for families of special needs children or for the public in general.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kimberly J. Malone permalink
    August 23, 2011 12:02 pm

    Thank you for Aisle 9. If we judge ourselves we shall not be judged- I say that because I’ve learned that just because things look a certain way, a screaming child may not a behavior problem and more than likely it is not, that 99% of the time it is not that way at all!!! Thank you so much for helping me examine myself. Keep up the good work!

  2. August 22, 2011 12:19 pm

    Congratulations, OA9! Thanks for sharing your journey in such a candid and personal way. Can’t wait to see what this year brings for Grant and your family!

  3. Suzanne M. permalink
    August 22, 2011 8:18 am

    Thank you for Aisle 9. Many of our families in Early Intervention believe they are alone in their journey. Being able to provide them with On Aisle 9 has given us another tool to allow the family to see they are not alone and inches are important! Your family has created a valuable resource and it is a joy to see the progress Grant is making. Thank you for reaching out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: