“Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, after reviewing your son’s evaluation from last month, it appears he has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of Autism.”
I remember sitting in the office of my son’s therapist in Middle, Georgia, stunned at the mention of the word autism. I had expected the first diagnosis, but not the second. For a long time, my son had struggled with behavioral issues in school, and we had tried for years to get answers from his previous PCM. While hearing the diagnosis came as an initial shock for us, we were glad to finally have some answers.
After the visit with the therapist, I made an appointment for my son to be seen by his PCM on base. His doctor referred us over to the Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator’s office in the same building. There, we received a blue folder filled with information regarding EFMP and how to register our son with ECHO to begin to receive treatment. However, I had to figure out my own next steps from there – looking for a therapist(s) for my son, scheduling appointments and/or putting our names on a waiting list (if needed), setting up an IEP meeting with his school and making adjustments to our routine and parenting style. With ample amounts of coffee and a working knowledge of Google, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to do all of the things by myself.
What I didn’t know was that I could have received help with all of this through resources provided by the military. All communication seemed to have stopped once I left the EFMP office, leading me to spend hours upon hours researching everything myself. If you are new to EFMP, here are some tips to help you and your family get off to a great start:
4 tips to help you navigate the EFMP process
- Call your family support coordinator. After you leave the EFMP office in the clinic, your first call needs to be to the Family Support Coordinator. They are usually located at your installation’s Family Readiness Center. Your FSC can help you navigate the murky waters of this process by helping to assess your family’s needs and answering all of your questions relating to EFMP. It is their job to help provide you with ways to make sure you and your family can get through the process as easy as possible.
- Call your installation’s legal office. If you have school-age children who will possibly need an IEP, it is imperative that you know your rights. I was denied IEP meetings for my son TWICE because I was unaware of laws put in place to protect my right to request one. Contact your local legal office to speak to an attorney regarding your family’s legal options, and if your needs exceed what they can offer, you may be able to receive assistance through the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project based on financial need.
- Check out Military OneSource. Can I just say how much I love Military OneSource? They seem to have an answer for everything. Military OneSource is really good about keeping all of their information up-to-date, so you never have to wonder if you’re receiving old information. Their blogs contain everything from the latest EFMP information to parenting tips for special needs families. You can also give them a call at 1-800-342-9647 24 hours a day, seven days a week to talk to a Special Needs consultant.
- Connect with other special needs families. There are certainly other families at your installation who have gone through what you are going through, and they may be able to offer you advice. When I asked around, I was connected with a local special needs families group on Facebook, who pointed me to some additional information I needed for my son’s IEP meeting. Reach out to your local spouse group Facebook page and see if you can be connected with other families who are in a similar situation. You don’t have to go through it alone!
There are so many things military families do on their own throughout their time in the military lifestyle, but going through the EFMP process doesn’t have to be one of them. It can be a difficult and overwhelming experience to be a family who is new to the process and trying to find all the appropriate information as you navigate this new stage of your life can be scary. But with the support of other families who have gone through the process before you as well as resources that the military provides, you will be able to find the best support for your family.Read comments