I wanted to write a post on special needs in the military, but seeing as my family isn’t in the military, I would have to scour the web for research. That didn’t seem “real” to me, so instead, I wrote a post asking for input, and we put out a call on our Facebook page for input as well. Here is what our families came up with. (Quotes are edited by myself for clarity and/or brevity.)
We were relocated from Virginia to California, as my husband is in the Navy. My daughter at the time was not diagnosed, but we already knew that she had autism as well as sensory processing disorder. As we prepared to move across country, driving nonetheless, I had to go completely prepared with a complete schedule. We were only able to drive for about 6 hours a day, so it took us 10 days, instead of the usual 3 to 3 1/2 days. We drove for 2 days and then stop one day and do something exciting. We would also tell her we were going to a hotel so she could go swimming, which she loves to do. We eventually got to base and lived in a transitional home. We still advised her that we were at a hotel house, and not home yet. When we finally got our permanent place 6 months later, we told her we were home. She still continually asked if we were “home” for another 6 months. With moving all the time in the military, keep the travel as consistent as possible. Give them a calendar/schedule if they are old enough. Tell them that you are on an adventure. We would also tell our daughter the exciting things we were going to see so she had something to look forward to. If at all possible due to proximity, I would definitely recommend going a few times to the new duty station to help your child get acquainted with the new area.
My youngest son, Jacob, has classic austim and my husband is in the Air Force. While we’ve moved a lot, we are now “Q-coded” and cannot be moved unless the schools and medical care are available for Jacob. There are some programs that are not well advertised for our families – even your on-base PCM might not know about them. First, there is the ECO Program. This is an extra insurance that covers your child’s needs if they qualify. You are charged on a sliding scale based on the sevice member’s rank. For example, we pay $35 per month on a Staff STG rank. This covers respite care, equipment, therapy, and other odd accommodations such as needing a fence for a wandering child. Second, the suport group S.T.O.M.P. This group helps you learn the ins and outs of care such as how to read an IEP. It provides support from people who have been in your shoes already. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and then keep asking. Call the schools before you get to your next duty station. If they don’t have the programs your child needs, go see if your orders can be changed.
My husband was medically retired from the Air Force in 2009. Our son, 5, has Aspergers. He has had a difficult time moving from the home we’d been in for a year. It takes some serious front loading and preparing the children before hand. Always be too prepared and think a million steps ahead. I also want to comment on health care in the military. Many changes have been made to services since we got out. It’s unfortunate, though, that retired military family members are excluded and can’t get the same services.
My daughter, 4, has Aspergers. My husband works 6 days a week and has random hours right now on recruiting duty. He’s a Marine. We have frequent moves, which isn’t easy. My daughter is already stuck on the fact we have to move after Christmas. I tend to prepare her long ahead of time. We go online and look at houses in the area we are going to move to, but base housing makes it easier because I can go on the Marine Corps’ website and show her the layout and pictures of the new house. She gets excited. I try to get to the house before our stuff so she can explore an empty house which tends to help. The hardest part is getting her to trust her new therapists. It seems when we break through with one we end up moving.
Is your family in the military? Do have tips to share? Please comment!