Families of autistic children bond, grow together at retreat

| March 18, 2011 | 0 Comments
Autism panel members — left to right, Dr. Thomas Gallagher, developmental pediatrician, TAMC; Alan Gamble, clinical social worker, Office of Special Needs and Services, TAMC; Aletha Sutton, Ph.D., autism district educational specialist, Windward School District; and Jim Partington, Ph.D., Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate, an international expert in autism care — take questions at the Strong Bonds retreat for families of autistic children, held March 4-6, at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina. (Jan Clark | Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs)

Autism panel members — left to right, Dr. Thomas Gallagher, developmental pediatrician, TAMC; Alan Gamble, clinical social worker, Office of Special Needs and Services, TAMC; Aletha Sutton, Ph.D., autism district educational specialist, Windward School District; and Jim Partington, Ph.D., Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate, an international expert in autism care — take questions at the Strong Bonds retreat for families of autistic children, held March 4-6, at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina. (Jan Clark | Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs)

Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs
News Release

 

HONOLULU — Nineteen families, including 25 autistic children and their siblings, attended a retreat, March 4-6, at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina.

Tripler Army Medical Center’s Department of Pastoral Care, or DMPC, sponsored the Strong Bonds event.

The retreat was held at the request of Brig. Gen. Keith Gallagher, commander, TAMC, who approached DMPC in November and asked that it conduct a Strong Bonds retreat for families of autistic children, since hundreds of military families in Hawaii have autistic children.

“This was the first retreat of its kind in Hawaii and included Army and Navy (service members),” said Chaplain (Col.) Sherman Baker, TAMC. “The focus of the retreat was to bring together families with children with an autism spectrum disorder, who share a common bond in order to promote learning, support, encouragement and fellowship, while strengthening their marriages and relationships.

“This special Strong Bonds program allowed families to recognize ways to build resilience in the marriage, while living with the challenges of autism and the military lifestyle,” Baker said.

Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program that helps Soldiers and their families build strong relationships. The program’s mission is to build Soldier readiness and provide skills Soldiers can use to strengthen their marriage and other relationships.

Each Strong Bonds program is targeted to meet Soldiers wherever they are in their relationship cycle, and it is administered through a training process that culminates in an off-site retreat.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander, U.S. Army-Pacific, met with participants, March 5.

“(He) spoke about the high priority of commitment at senior Army leadership levels to continue to support families, including those with special needs, during austere fiscal times,” Baker said. “He listened to the hardships faced by the families and to their requests for increased community and Tricare support.

“He, in turn, learned that families of children with an autism spectrum disorder, and other disorders, experience chronic stress similar to that of our combat Soldiers,” Baker added.

During the retreat, the group participated in discussions that addressed the common challenges they face daily, including expectations, forgiveness, problem-solving, and sensual and sexual misunderstandings.

“This weekend was about military couples and families, (finding) ways to improve communication in a marriage, and for families with children with autism,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jon Hollenbeck, TAMC.

Visit www.tricare.mil to learn more about autism services available through an expanded network of educational intervention providers.

 

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Category: Community, Health

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