FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Following the spirit of the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, the Army and Fort Rucker are making sure that parents of children with special needs don't have to go it alone.

The Fort Rucker Exceptional Family Member Program will host a two-day workshop of Specialized Training of Military Parents Aug. 25-26 at The Commons from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., as a means to help military families better understand how to access their children's special education needs, according to Marion Cornish, EFMP manager.

"The purpose of this training is to help military families to understand their rights, and how to responsibly access special education services for their children," said Cornish. "It will help them understand that when you get into the education arena and you're talking about children with special needs, depending on their age range, there are programs in place that can help."

The free program is brought to Fort Rucker by U.S. Army Installation Management Command, which provides funding to bring the program to installations across the U.S. The program originated in Tacoma, Washington, from the organization Partnerships for Action, Voices for Empowerment, and is now widely hailed as the national model for this type of training, said the EFMP manager.

Throughout this workshop, parents will have the opportunity to learn about how they can access special programs that can help their child or children as they grow and go through the education system, she added.

For example, there are services that parents can get called the Individual Family Service Plan, which outlines services that can be provided to children from birth to 36 months with special needs, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy, said Cornish.

Additionally, once a child transitions out of that age, they can transition into a new program called the Individual Education Program, which is a more stringent program to help children with special needs be successful through the public school system, she said.

"There are lots of programs to help that child be successful throughout their education, and the IEP is there for that, and, in most states, children can continue through that program through to the age of 21 in the public school system," said the EFMP manager.

Qualification for the IEP program is rigorous, but if children don't qualify for the program, they can learn about other programs that can help them throughout the education process, she said, adding that this is why STOMP exists -- to help parents understand what they need to do in order to get the help they need for their children.

"This is a very beneficial program to them because a lot of times if parents don't know what to ask then they can't get the services," said Cornish. "If they come, these are the people who have put an extensive amount of time into researching the laws and changes and updates to the programs. They can tell them what they need to ask or how to ask -- this is an excellent opportunity for them."

For more information, call 255-9277 or 255-3643.