HARKER HEIGHTS — Moving can be a challenge for families, but when one child has special needs, the process can be amplified.
To help better understand the challenges, the Military Child Education Coalition presented Responding to the Military Child with Exceptional Needs Institute for local educators, administrators and other professionals Sept. 18-19.
Theresa Tankson, who works in Fort Hood’s social work department, said she attended the two-day conference at St. Paul Chong Hasang’s Parish Center at the recommendation of co-workers.
It’s a detailed process, she said of moving with a special-needs child, which the Army refers to as exceptional family members. Known as EFMP, the program is designed to identify family members with physical, emotional, developmental or intellectual disorders requiring specialized services so their needs can be considered in the military personnel assignment process.
“I’m walking away today with an increased knowledge and understanding of the processes, the level of interfacing that goes on and the importance of helping families living in a transition period,” Tankson said.
The information was in-depth and interactive, she added.
Sandy Franklin, the coalition’s chief of curriculum development, said the conference focuses on three main subjects — teaching the amplified transition challenges faced by children with special needs, whether special education or gifted and talented; identifying strategies to help meet the challenges; and designing methods to put in place to work with families.
The conference had participants from many different points of contact for families, she said.
“It’s learning from each other and using the resources we have available,” Franklin said. “It ends up benefiting the kids.”
Silvia Simpson, who often interacts with the military as a counselor in the Killeen Independent School District, said it was important for her to learn what all was involved. She said she was lucky to have her husband stationed at Fort Hood for a long period of time before his retirement, which kept her family in one school district.
“I attended (the conference) mostly because as a school counselor, I want to better support children and families,” she said.
One piece of information she learned during the conference’s first day was to encourage families to bring copies of paperwork to school indicating special needs requirements as soon as possible.
“Schools need to know,” she said. “It’s so important to know so the student can receive services right from the start.”
Go to www.militarychild.org.