EFMP Provides Special Needs Support
Mary Phemister, a contractor with Vilseck's Army Community Service, plays with children at an Exceptional Family Member Program support group meeting while their parents meet.

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - As a mother of four, Irene Caro knows first hand what it takes to parent a child, especially, in her Family's case, one with special needs. So when asked about the Exceptional Family Member Program, she responds: "The kids can just be who they are ... I wish I'd had this earlier."

The program Cano is referring to is one funded by the Army that provides care for a Family member with any physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorder that requires special treatment, therapy, education, training or counseling.

According to Mirian Houston, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr EFMP manager and respite coordinator, enrollment in EFMP is Army mandated whenever a child is medically diagnosed with a disorder that falls into the aforementioned categories.

"Enrollment is not optional," said Houston. "(It) enhances the Soldier's career and ensures services are available before assignments are made."

Families stationed overseas, Houston added, especially benefit from this program. Why' Because the EFMP regulation requires prior research before a move to ensure Department of Defense Dependents Schools and other programs will be able to meet the needs of the child within reasonable limits.

Besides providing care for children with disabilities - including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, insulin-dependent diabetes, sickle cell anemia, or a mental health disorder - the program also provides a support group for parents.

There are three support groups under EFMP here: Straight Talk Support Group for parents of children with ADHD; Special Needs at USAG Grafenwoehr Support Group for parents of children with autism; and Climbing the Rainbow for parents of children with any disorder.

Parents use these groups to receive feedback and compare "trials" that others may have undergone. It also gives parents the chance to spend time with their children and other adults at the same time, and provides the children a chance to play with each other.

The Educational and Developmental Intervention Services also plays a big role for Families involved in EFMP.

EDIS has the same qualifications as EFMP. The two programs work together to provide the maximum support for Families with a special needs child.

"I (believe many) moms don't know about it (EDIS) and you don't (fully understand) what it's about until you go," Cano said.

Ingrid Cruthird, another parent in the program, said the support groups within EFMP encouraged her to "leave my house more."

"I felt really alone at first, but there are other parents out there going through the same thing," Cruthird said.

Both Cano and Cruthird agreed that with the 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment deployed, such support groups become even more important for remaining spouses by allowing them to "bounce ideas off of each other."

Houston said that approximately 490 children in the Grafenwoehr and Vilseck area are enrolled medically and educationally in the EFMP. She said that one of her primary duties is to connect Families with similar experiences so they can get the most out of the programs.

"EFMP assists Soldiers with command sponsorship and housing issues. If a Family is enrolled in the EFMP, then we are providing respite care hours," Houston said.

(Katie Cowart is a member of the USAG Grafenwoehr Public Affairs Office)

Page last updated Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 15:09