I am an Army wife and mother of four. My husband and I are stationed in Fort Lewis, Wash., and we have one daughter, age 5, and three sons, ages 2, 4, and 9. All of our boys have autism. My husband has been in the Army for about three years now and during that time we not only faced the hardships of adjusting to this new lifestyle, but we were hit with the reality that there is definitely a genetic component to autism.
My oldest son was already diagnosed years ago, but in the last 18 months we have faced the diagnosis of our other two boys. I really wanted to find support here, and I found it extremely challenging trying to balance my busy life with trying to meet more families like mine locally.
There was also the constant battle of explaining the special needs of my children whenever we were in public. I decided to throw myself into increasing the network of parents here at Joint Base Lewis McChord and I began leading a parent support group that meets monthly at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. The group has rapidly increased in size, but the majority was civilian families. This is where the concept for the autism walk began. I wanted to create an event that would draw families like mine out and give them an opportunity to connect with their community, share their story, and increase awareness locally in support of their children with Autism.
I proposed the idea to my husband’s unit, the 593rd Sustainment Brigade. I was astounded by their willingness to jump on the idea and help me make it a great success! They helped me access rentals from the MWR and gave me a staff of volunteer soldiers to help run the eight booths which offered resources, food, and yard games.
The best way I could think to really have a visual impact at the event and allow families to in some way share their story was to create the signs. I collected information from EFMP and the school district and determined that 150 signs would be a good approximation of the number of school age children here and around JBLM diagnosed with Autism. I thought I was aiming too high, but amazingly nearly 70 families contacted me wanting their children’s names on signs! I collected photos and names of all the children and the remaining signs bore the “1 in 88” statistic that was released at that time by the CDC as the risk for autism. (Since the event, this number has changed to 1 in 55 I believe).
Now the challenge I faced was creating a successful event that could entertain a large number of people, with no money. I got creative and made a few calls. Families helped spread the word and small $3-$5 donations showed up here and there, but the greatest help came from some local stores that donated some of the supplies or discounted them for me. Home Depot donated 150 long paint sticks to mount the signs, and Joanne Fabric never batted an eye when I came in there with 20 printed coupons!
One by one I put the signs together, created two large banners, and 22 large signs with facts about autism that were posted along the route of the walk. I had some amazing volunteers help me when they were able, but by April 1 my living room was taken over!
It was a constant emotional roller coaster preparing this event. I was so happy to connect with all the families that participated and every time I felt overwhelmed and wanted to quit, my email would ring with a new child’s photo and I would be reminded of why this was so important.
The day of the event was amazing. I was able to coordinate with the developmental pediatrics staff at Madigan and have Dr. Geneman speak at our event. We also had representatives from Air Force EFMP, Army EFMP, and the commander of the 593rd address our audience about the impact of autism, how families can find support, and how our community can support us.
I spoke on behalf of the families and shared a bit about my story.
After the walk I was in tears. There were parents who came and thanked me for sharing my story and felt they were represented well.
This event was a great success and I hope I will be here next year to push for another one in April 2014!
November is a special time of year for our military families. In addition to Veterans Day and Thanksgiving holidays, the entire month is recognized as Military Family Month.
During the month, American Military Families Autism Support will continue to recognize our military families dealing with autism, providing news, information, community and support that directly impacts them.
Our families go through a lot in support to a grateful nation and encounter challenges that non-military families will likely never experience, whether their family member is dealing with autism or not.
by Jeremy Hilton
Next Wednesday, June 20, at 1430 (in Room 232-A Senate Russell Bldg), the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel will be holding a hearing on the issues impacting our military families affected by disabilities. I will be testifying along with four or five other witnesses. Here is the specific info on the hearing: http://
I suspect a large portion of the testimony and discussion will be referencing a potential Senator Gillibrand amendment regarding ABA and the recent OPM decision to include ABA as a medically necessary therapy for the dependents of federal workers. I intend to address that issue in my written testimony, along with other issues relevant to our community including special education, Tricare, Medicaid waivers, and the EFMP programs.
By Susanne Kappler Fort Jackson Leader
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (June 14, 2012) — When Staff Sgt. Chad Miles, his wife, Chazia, and their four children moved from Fort McPherson, Ga., to Fort Jackson last summer, they did not know what to expect.
Although moving can be hard on any military family, the Miles family had an additional worry. Their 8-year old son, Chad, was diagnosed with autism in 2009 — a developmental disorder that, for Chad, led to problems with verbal, cognitive and social skills.
Name: Lindsay Wilson
Service Connection: U.S. Army spouse
Location: Fort Campbell, Kentucky
What is your autism story?
Our story focuses around our two great kids who are both on the spectrum. They are polar opposites in many aspects, which can make things a bit of a challenge when dealing with both at once. One seeks high sensory input and the other is a sensory avoider. One is very laid back and the other bounces off the walls.
When it comes to helping our military families, you are critical. You know what is available around installations you are at or installations you have been to. You know where to find qualified doctors, labs, autism treatment specialists, grocers with organic or specialty foods for special diets, etc.
Did you know you that only you can make a difference for other military families by sharing this information? Read on.
AMFAS Worlwide Installation Resource is our easy to use, full-featured way to provide any military family at any installation worldwide a way to add, search, rate and review support and services both on military installations and in the local area surrounding them. Any registered member can contribute. Read more
It comes of untold heroism, against peril of warfare. Service members are not awarded this honor; they are bestowed it.
It is the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military honor given for valor to an individual serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The medal is generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress.
On the same day as the nation’s military services unveiled their new Facebook page layouts, American Military Families Autism Support followed suit.
AMFAS, the nation’s first grassroots support organization for military families dealing with autism spectrum disorder, was one of the first organizations to change on Feb. 29 to the new pages format that includes Facebook’s timeline. That format was unrolled recently for personal pages. All pages are scheduled to change to the new format by March 30.
On Jan.31, I will be taking the day off work to support other military families dealing with autism, as they pay a visit to Capitol Hill to tell their stories.
The event is a briefing hosted by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and U.S. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut on the challenges faced by military families raising children with autism spectrum disorder.
It is a day of magic, of heritage, of faith. The day has a different meaning for everyone.
Merry Christmas to all our military families. Whether you view Dec. 25 as a religious day signifying the birth of Jesus Christ, a day of presents and family, a day off, or a day with significance based upon your own religious preferences, have a great day!
For our families who are Jewish, enjoy this sixth day of Chanukah, Rosh Hodesh.
As a national holiday, today is a day for everyone to be with family and relax. Please remember that there are some of our families who don’t get that option. As military families, we answer the nation’s call; sometimes that call is during the holiday season. Please remind both our deployed service members and their families deployed on the homefront that you are thinking of them, that their sacrifice now is important and never forgotten.
In thinking of them, here are holiday messages from our Commander in Chief, Secretary of Defense, Chairman and members of the Joint Staff.
From American Military Families Autism Support — the only national organic grassroots support effort for military families, by military families — best wishes and happy holidays to you and your loved ones.
President Barak Obama and Mrs. Obama holiday message
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta holiday message
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey and Mrs. Dempsey holiday message
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Mrs. Schwartz holiday message
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and Mrs. Odierno holiday message
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos and Mrs. Amos holiday message
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathon Greenert and Mrs. Greenert holiday message