I have been a military spouse for nearly 25 years. We have three boys, two of whom have disabilities and are enrolled in the Army’s Exceptional Family Member Program. Since being diagnosed as profoundly deaf at 2 years old, our oldest son will graduate from high school this year. He has attended 12 schools. We have been enrolled in EFMP since his diagnosis.
Several times I’ve worn myself out to a messy pool of tears after fighting for my child’s basic rights by law in several different school districts. It took more than a year to move through the procedural safeguards in one school district, right to the edge of entering due process, for the district and I to find a mutually acceptable plan for my youngest son’s education. Four days later my husband received a call that resulted him in moving to a new job and a new post, two months later.
Through the years we’ve met some serious challenges in different school districts.
I’ve taken it upon myself to learn volumes about educational law, and have poured over federal and state special education codes.
I know my children’s rights to access a free and appropriate public education, aiming for education in the least restrictive environment. I know a whole bunch of good, key words to bring up at our school meetings.
After the reports about Killeen’s special education issues surfaced in the news, someone turned to me and asked, “What’s going on? Are things really this bad with the special education programs here?”
Over the last couple months, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with people about our local school challenges. I’ve talked with parents of special education, former educators who had worked in the district, as well as administrators at the highest level in the educational system.
In my heart of hearts, I sincerely believe that senior school administrators are working hard to identify areas in need of improvement, and will continue to make changes to best support our children.
As military family members, though, we have access to additional support systems to help us face our family’s medical and educational challenges.
Unfortunately, many military parents don’t know about the support available to them, or just don’t take advantage them. Maybe the parents are tired (like me), or have lost trust that someone would actually help them.
Fort Hood has four school liaison officers who can answer questions about local school districts that educate our Fort Hood children.
Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosts school council meetings where parents can raise questions and concerns facing their children within their schools. EFMP also provides systems navigators who are available to guide family members through challenges within the medical system.
These navigators can sit with parents through school meetings to help them understand their student’s educational plan and options available to them.
EFMP also hosts regular support meetings, providing education and networking opportunities to families with special needs.
Information on all of these programs is always available online, at different community meetings, and in offices and classrooms throughout post.
We need to take advantage of the programs and support we have at hand, or we risk losing them to budget cuts.
I believe my children have done well because I’ve worked hard to educate myself to their rights and needs.
I’ve also used a vast array of support resources provided by the Army, to help us adjust to challenges at many different duty stations.
When I’ve come across personnel who were less than helpful, I moved on to find someone else who would work hard with me to obtain the support we needed.
I have committed to work hard to support my children and their needs. I challenge other military parents to continue searching for the support they need, and to take advantage of programs available to them through the military system, too.
As military families, we are a tough and resilient breed. And as a mother of three boys, two with special needs, I am thankful for the support we’ve received from other families, school teachers and some wonderful Army civilians who’ve helped us through tough situations.
The military life can be quite the roller coaster ride at times, but better managed with support from others. I am thankful for that support.