As we wind down 2009, your friends at American Military Families Autism Support hope that regardless of your background, you have had a chance over the last month to enjoy your holidays.
As a child, anything is possible. I remember when I was younger how the magic of Christmas, for instance, gave me hope that if I was good enough and did what I was told, that I could possibly get something special from Santa Claus. During my early childhood I believed in the magic of the season.
As a military family member these can be trying times. For some it can be the concern over how your child will handle the sensory issues of having too many loved ones visit, of the new toys making loud sounds or for people on special diets, just how to offer choices. For some the holidays can be even more difficult when those large medical bills affect the type of holiday celebrations you can actually afford for your children. Others may be preparing for an upcoming permanent change of station move.
Many of our families suffer additional challenges during this season, with deployments to far corners of the world, such as the Horn of Africa, Iraq or even Afghanistan. Those of us who are experiencing this type of separation need to be reminded of possibilities, even though it’s a long, tough road ahead.
So what happened to that spirit I enjoyed as a child? Frankly, it has been chipped away by people telling me that something isn’t possible or the fact that no matter how hard I work for something, there usually isn’t the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. It’s easy to get negative and a natural response to just give up when things aren’t working out the way you want. But this is not you; this is your child we’re now talking about.
As parents of autistic kids we need to not be disillussioned by people telling us we can’t do this, we don’t know what we’re talking about or something is not considered normal treatment. As with deployments and separations during this time of year, there is no easy road or option, but to understand that you must keep going and going. If we are going to recover our children, we need to keep possibility alive, to do our research, to ask the tough questions of our medial professionals and be ready to question the care if something doesn’t seem quite right to you. But all said, know that you can do it.
As American’s military, we don’t want to win a war 51-49. We want to win it 100-0 and never justify losing one of our comrades for the fact that it’s acceptable to lose someone because it’s easy. We are in a war against autism and our children are the ones we are fighting for.
Reinforce the possible, not the impossible and look for ways, sometimes microscopic, to improve your child each day.
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, please remember that there are many of us among you who share your concerns and are going through similar things. That’s why we are here. No fundraising, no promoting other services or businesses for any gain. Just military family members trying to do something positive and help each other.
If you know of military families dealing with autism spectrum disorder, please tell them about this effort to bring together more military families and increase the information we share together. Together we can make a difference.
In September, 16 military families filed a Department of Defense Inspector General complaint against the Air Force alleging its failure to implement the current Exceptional Family Member Program, as well as not providing the necessary supports related to families with special needs.
As a result of these families, Lt. Gen. Dick Newton, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, called a meeting to discuss the EFMP issues cited, stating that he wants the fix to be “enduring”. With the Air Force celebrating Year of the Air Force Family through July 2010, the timing is right for creating change.
General Newton serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation, and the worldwide USAF services program. In his capacity, he is the right person to take action on this matter.
Newton appointed Barbara Barger to take the lead in establishing an enduring Air Force Enterprise EFM Program. Her biography is located at (http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=7998).
She is investigating how to best revamp the Air Force EFMP program with your thoughts and suggestions. Barger is Newton’s civilian deputy and the civilian equivalent of a 2-star general. To that end, she has been granted unilateral authorities to task across the Air Staff, for support. Newton stated his hope is to have the opportunity to declare to all that the Air Force has an EFMP that satisfies the needs of Air Force families, from accession to retirement.
She’s very interested in hearing from concerned Air Force families and can be contacted through e-mail: Barbara.Barger@pentagon.af.mil or by phone (703) 614-1345.
She is trying to get as much input before the holidays so please contact her. Unfortunately, in the last two weeks she hasn’t received much input and it will impact all of us to provide specific ideas to help evolve the processes that affects not just your family, but all special needs families.
For all Air Force special needs families looking to improve support, this is your chance to provide direct impact that will affect all Air Force families. This is important and you should not let this opportunity pass to to make a difference. Compile your thoughts and contact her. Jeremy Hilton email@example.com has offered to assist anyone with specific items to address or formatting who needs it.
Military Families: Please take an opportunity to complete this DoD military family needs assessment survey.This is a chance for the military special needs community to have its voice heard!
This survey is part of a research study funded by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy) and the National Institute of Food & Agriculture(USDA). The purpose of this study is to hear directly from the consumers about what is working and what is not in the arena of military family education and support and about overall adjustment during and after deployment.
This information will provide guidance for policy makers and service providers in the development and refinement of educational programs, support networks and services and their delivery in ways that better support service members’ families. In turn, it is anticipated that such program enhancements will improve quality of life and overall adjustment to deployment and reintegration, thus improving overall family and service member readiness.
Your comments can make a difference in future autism considerations for military families.
To participate in the survey follow this link https://survey.vt.edu(removetosend)/survey/entry.jsp?id=1253631402808