We are coming to the close of the month this week. Many of us know that April has been designated Month of the Military Child. It is also recognized as Autism Awareness Month. If you are or know a military family with a child on the spectrum you have probably heard the statistic that 1 in 88 military children has been diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum, which is a bit more prevalent than the national average.
I have mixed feelings on these awareness campaign sort of things. It is also Tomatillo and Asian Pear Month and there is a website that compiles all of the other causes and concerns we should be aware of and take action about. Sometimes it seems silly to me. But at its core, any time spent thinking about what it may be like or how we might help the families concerned is time well spent.
This time last year I had finally stopped waiting for my son to ‘catch up’ and had him evaluated for language delays. Things were just starting to set off what Rachelle calls a mother’s “yellow blinkie lights”, but I had not really begun to repeatedly visit the sites that list all of the ‘red flags’ of autism, trying to figure out which ones were more important to have or if the absence of some canceled out the presence of others.
This year we have our diagnosis, some strong gains in an ECI class and an ever growing (and ever maddening) mental tally of how ridiculous it is to get from diagnosis to services.
I’ve already spoken about how the purple is muddy when it comes to EFMP families. If ever there is a place for Joining Forces to apply – helping families who already have a battle on their hands might be a good place to start. Because seriously – getting through the day is sometimes the loftiest goal I have set for myself.
I was recently introduced to a military spouse hired by a local advocacy group for special needs children. The organization knows the area has a big military population and they wanted someone on their payroll who could effectively assist military families navigating the murky school district and healthcare waters. I won’t soon forget how wide her eyes got as I laid out my experience so far and will be forever grateful that from this point forward I have someone in my corner to tell me what is normal “hurry up and wait” bureaucracy and what is someone shirking their duties and confident I’m too ignorant to call them on it.
I had hoped to coincide my post highlighting the double spotlight this month puts on military children with autism to the re-launch of the American Military Families Autism Support website. It isn’t live yet, but if, like me, you would benefit from what promises to be a fantastic resource, please bookmark it and check in every once in a while. In the meantime they have really done a great job with their facebook page. The community responses to their daily questions can be a gold mine, and seeing people get responses when asking about services in specific areas is great. They also have a blog which imports posts from different blogging military families with someone on the spectrum.
We were finally successful at getting our EFMP paperwork processed and apparently a diagnosis of autism is pretty serious in Navy speak. I was surprised to see that they would like us to homestead in one of five places. When it comes time to view available orders, the AMFAS website will be an excellent resource for families looking to confirm services are indeed available at whatever locations you might like to try outside of where you have been limited to by your EFM category. Some people hate the idea of moving and would love an opportunity to get stuck someplace indefinitely, but for those of us who are interested in taking three year trips to distant and foreign lands(/states) – it is nice to know there is a place to find out if your family’s special needs could be accommodated in the community.
So as we move on to the next month and our thoughts stray and invariably turn to potatoes and limes, thank you to all the parents out there who advocate not only for their children’s well being, but invest their energy in helping other parents. We appreciate it more than we’d ever be able to express.