By Nicholas Sabula
How would you like the chance to have your voice heard at the highest levels of DoD on items impacting our children? Would you be willing to spend a small amount of time to create a potentially large benefit for our military autism community, even our military special needs community as a whole?
If you answered yes to those two questions, then you’re exactly the person I want to hear from. I’m writing today because I need your help to make this happen through feedback.
Recently I was selected to a DoD Advisory Panel on EFMP and special needs. On Sept. 27 in Arlington, Va., I’ll be attending the panel. I have no idea what to expect at this point, but my plan is presenting what I hope is a good sampling of data from a large representation of the military special needs community.
Our military families who have children, spouses or other dependents with special requirements encounter added stressors not everyone understands; and we all know military life is not easy in general. Let’s do something about it.
In 2008, I founded American Military Families Autism Support, a grassroots project for military families, by military families. When I started down this road we affectionately call AMFAS, I envisioned an open, accommodating environment where all our ideas and paths have room. I saw the potential of increasing support and communication between family members and offer a pathway to increasing care for our children by ultimately improving feedback between our families and military support providers. I also understand from personal experience that many times there are significant roadblocks to care and support.
AMFAS has never been about me, but about you (and your work and inspiration will soon be putting those efforts into overdrive). It has always meant to be transparent and representative; the reason I originally called this a Web 2.0 endeavor.
I mention this because the same goes for trying to support all our families as best possible in this panel; it’s about your needs as military families dealing with special needs issues. That’s why I’m reaching out to you in this unconventional fashion. Let’s help our leaders better help us.
Over the last two years our AMFAS Facebook page has generated approximately 6,000 post feedbacks from our community. That data will be assessed, but I’d like to also hear your stories and your struggles to deliver that message as well. On Monday (Sept 12) a special needs survey will go online and will be open for two weeks. You can also go here and enter your open comments and suggestions directly before that time. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know other military families dealing with any special needs issues, please share this information with them.
This call for input is not limited to families with autism, but meant for all DoD special needs families.
If you have challenges, ideas or answers to the way special needs care is addressed across the military, I want to hear from you. Your stories are important. Specific examples of what was lacking or what could fix an issue would be great.
This is no time to sit on the fence. Help make special needs support processes better. Together we can make a difference.