FORT HOOD — Fort Hood reached out to families with special needs at an event held on post Wednesday morning.
Army Community Service’s Exceptional Family Member Program hosted its first Special Needs Empowerment Seminar, which brought together members of various organizations to provide attendees with information and resources for military families living with special physical, emotional, developmental or intellectual needs.
“We work and coordinate with a number of agencies, both here at Fort Hood and in the community,” said Joan Boykin, a manager for the program. “Today we are trying to let families know what is available to them, and who they can talk to in order to get what they need.”
While the program provides services to all members of the military family, Wednesday’s seminar primarily focused on school-age children.
J.J. Johnson, a school liaison officer for Fort Hood, spoke to parents about tackling the challenges of transitioning and relocating kids to a new school.
“(School liaisons) have a lot of local knowledge, and can answer a lot of the questions you may have,” Johnson said. “Making that transition can be a difficult time, and we are here to help make that a smoother process.”
Johnson, who grew up in a military family, said he understood the challenges and stresses military families face when they move to a new state.
“That was 25 years ago when we were moving around, and there wasn’t someone there to help you with the process involved in adjusting to a new school in a new state,” he said. “Now, there is a focal point, and someone is there to help facilitate the process.”
Boykin said the transitions can be especially difficult on military families who have children with needs.
“It can definitely be a challenge, and you need to become the voice for your child,” said Marilyn Dorris, a retired military spouse and the parent of a child with autism.
Johnson, Killeen Independent School District Director of Special Education Lynn Young and other speakers at the seminar gave parents an overview of the various tools, originations and resources available to parents during the complex process of receiving and retaining special education care for their child.
“There are a lot of things out there for you,” said Stephania Williams, a program representative. “We want to be there to give you the knowledge, and empower you to navigate that system.”
Speaking Wednesday, Boykin said the program plans to hold additional seminars and information sessions on a regular basis in the future.