PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – Over 32 million children across the globe suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder, and approximately 23,000 of those children are part of Marine Corps families who have special needs to make their lives as normal as possible.
Cpl. Preston Fouch, a marksmanship coach on Parris Island, and his wife, Brooke Fouch, found out their son, Emmett, was autistic in July 2013. Shortly after this diagnosis, they sought help from the Exceptional Family Member Program.
The program was designed circa 1987 to support active-duty family members with special medical, emotional or educational needs, and it provides special toys, household items and services, including therapists and doctors.
If it wasn’t for the program’s Early Development Intervention Services, “I wouldn’t have half the sensory things I need for Emmett,” said Brooke Fouch.
A child with autism can have difficulties with his or her senses, such as hearing or touch. Sometimes, the child can have overactive or not enough hearing, causing them to scream more than normal. They can also have a hard time expressing what they need to satisfy their senses.
Brooke borrowed and bought toys for her son that have different textures or cards that have different pictures on them to help Emmett become comfortable with words and textures.
The Fouch family has been enrolled in the program for almost a year and uses many of the program’s offerings to help meet the sensory needs of their son, including therapists who help their son with speech and behavior. The family has also borrowed toys from the Lending Locker, a collection of items families in the program can use to help their children develop.
The program has a full staff of case workers to help families at every major Marine Corps installation who are trained to handle hundreds of cases at a time, like the 155 enrolled Parris Island families.
“I really like [the employees of the program],” said Preston Fouch, a 23-year-old native of Belfry, Ky. “They have so many resources and classes. They are always on top of what they need to know. I have never gone in to talk to them and left with questions.”
John Abney, the program manager for Parris Island, Eastern Recruiting Region and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, said the fact that the Fouch family has done so much to ensure the needs of their son are met exemplifies the impact these programs have on families.
Emmett Fouch plays with a sensory toy in his playroom May 29, 2014. Cpl. Preston Fouch, a Marine on Parris Island, S.C., and his wife, Brooke, learned Emmett has Autism Spectrum Disorder in July 2013, shortly before his second birthday. The Fouches use services provided by the Exceptional Family Member Program to help Emmett develop as much like a regular child as possible. (Photo by Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)
From left, Emmett, Brooke, Emma Lynn and Cpl. Preston Fouch play with toys in Emmett’s sensory room May 8, 2014. Emmett was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in July 2013, shortly before his second birthday. The Fouches use services provided by the Exceptional Family Member Program to help Emmett develop as much like a regular child as possible. (Photo by Cpl. MaryAnn Hill)