Families with autistic children face PCS challenges

| August 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

Parents of special needs children were able to address issues of concern with a panel of experts that are able to assist them with answers and resources.

Lt. Col. Kathy Presper
U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — The permanent change of station, or PCS, season has arrived.

Recently, at the Soldier Family Assistance Center, here, the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks hosted families of children with special needs, specifically for children diagnosed with autism.

In attendance were expert panel participants in the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP, process to address how to better support this part of our ohana, or family.

Community engagement
Col. Mario Diaz, deputy commander for 25th Infantry Division, opened the EFMP Community Engagement Meeting with a welcoming address to all in attendance for participating in the vital dialogue in coming together to learn from one another.

“We can make a difference, and the goal is to come out of this meeting prepared for the hard work ahead of improving how we support families with EFMP needs,” said Diaz.

During the Community Engagement Meeting the testimonials of three mothers supported by the families in the audience provided a glimpse of PCSing with a child with autism, which includes the following:

•Outlining the impact of prolonged temporary hotel lodging and how it can lead to increased stress and possible regression for some autistic children.
•How to get keiki with special needs enrolled in our local school system.
•How to get children with autism and special needs integrated into athletic and sports programs.
•Resources to provide sensory items for autistic children prior to the arrival of their household goods.

The mothers addressed the impact of temporary housing during the PCS cycle on their children’s health and the need for specific security requirements to help ensure that the autistic child does not wander out of the house. Reaching out to housing prior to your arrival can help minimize wait times.

During the PCS season, parents of school-aged children are looking to enroll their children into school for the upcoming year. The mothers of special needs children expressed the necessity for proper integration of their child into the school system.

For educational progression, the implications of effective services coupled with early intervention in school for special needs children was echoed by the mothers in attendance.

Exercise and sports can be very helpful for children with special needs. An expert panelist, Dr. Hank Cashen, director at Army Community Service, stated that in the future there will be a program similar to Special Olympics available to children with special needs.

The families stated that it would be very helpful to have a special needs sensory lending closet available to parents of special needs children. These are items typically used by parents to assist in comforting an autistic child.

Cashen agreed that it was a good idea and that they would work with these families to add this resource. Also, it may be possible for community support to provide local donated items for these families to use prior to their household goods shipment arrival.

Col. Deydre Teyhen, commander, USAHC-SB, also emphasized effective discussion from all who were present.

“Early intervention, not just from the medical community, but from the community in its entirety can significantly improve these children’s lives,” said Teyhen. “It’s our responsibility as community leaders to assist in every way possible to assist EFMP families.”

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Category: Health

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